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EU threatens sanctions against Myanmar junta

February 22, 2021

With the death toll rising in Myanmar, world leaders have repeated their calls for the military junta to step down and US officials have announced new sanctions.

A protester in Myanmar holding a sign showing Aung San Suu Kyi that says "Free our leader"
Myanmar citizens have been protesting against the military takeover since early FebruaryImage: AP Photo/picture alliance

The European Union is poised to impose sanctions against the military leaders in Myanmar, according to a joint statement released after EU foreign ministers met in Brussels on Monday.

The statement came as protesters in Myanmar continued to take to the streets despite a deadly crackdown by military and police forces. At least three protesters have died since Friday, and the military has reported that one policeman had also lost his life.

On Monday, the European Union announced that it was "ready to adopt restrictive measures targeting those directly responsible for the military coup and their economic interests."

The bloc also called for a "de-escalation of the current crisis" that began on February 1, when the military overturned the democratic election results in Myanmar and took control of the country.

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said the bloc would use any diplomatic means necessary to ensure deescalation of the conflict in Myanmar.

US issues new sanctions 

The US Treasury Department late Monday placed two high-ranking members of Myanmar's military under sanctions for their role in the coup.

Lieutenant General Moe Myint Tun and General Maung Maung Kyaw were added to the Treasury's blacklist, which freezes their US assets and bars US citizens from doing business with them. 

"The military must reverse its actions and urgently restore the democratically elected government in Burma, or the Treasury Department will not hesitate to take further action," the department said in a statement.

Kenneth Roth, the executive director of Human Rights Watch, told DW last week that sanctions need to go beyond targeting individual generals, and go after businesses the military owns, to be more effective. 

"The military needs these businesses to be operating. And if they face sanctions, that's going to cut off their lifeblood and their ability to maintain their repressive rule," Roth said. 

Global leaders call on military to step aside

The European Union also called for the immediate and unconditional release of Aung San Suu Kyi and the ousted president, Win Myint, as well as others who had been detained during the military coup.

Other world leaders also spoke out against the military regime as protesters gathered in the streets on Monday, a day after US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken expressed explicit support for the protesters over Twitter.

The UK foreign secretary, Dominic Raab, told the UN Human Rights Council that the situation in Myanmar was deteriorating.

He laid out demands for the junta to relinquish power. "The military must step aside. Civilian leaders must be released. And the democratic wishes of the people of Myanmar must be respected," he said.

UN chief Antonio Guterres also  called on the generals  to hand power back to the civilian government. 

"I call on the Myanmar military to stop the repression immediately. Release the prisoners. End the violence. Respect human rights and the will of the people expressed in recent elections. Coups have no place in our modern world," Guterres said.

wmr,ab/dj (dpa, AFP, Reuters)