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Myanmar: EU, UK impose new sanctions on junta officials

June 21, 2021

Western countries are pressuring the junta over its violent clampdown on pro-democracy protesters. The move comes as Myanmar's military bolsters ties with Russia.

Myanmar soldiers ride in tanks in Kachin state
Myanmar's military has taken over the country since a coup on February 1Image: STR/AFP

The EU implemented new sanctions on top officials in Myanmar's ruling military junta Monday over human rights abuses. 

The 27-member bloc imposed travel bans and asset freezes on eight officials and also targeted four "economic entities" tied to the Myanmar military. 

What did the EU say about the sanctions?

The EU criticized the officials for "undermining democracy and the rule of law, and for serious human rights violations."

The sanctions on military-controlled companies are intended to hurt the junta financially. 

"By targeting the gems and timber sectors, these measures are aimed at restricting the junta's ability to profit from Myanmar's natural resources, while being crafted so as to avoid undue harm to the people of Myanmar," the EU said in a statement. 

The UK also added three Myanmar economic entities to its sanctions list on Monday, including a state-owned pearl firm and a timber company.

Myanmar's military boosts ties with Moscow

The sanctions come as the junta turns to Russia for support.

Junta leader Min Aung Hlaing met with Russian National Security Council chief Nikolai Petrushev on Monday ahead of an international security conference in Moscow this week.

The National Security Council said the two sides discussed terrorism, regional security issues and foreign interference in Myanmar's affairs. The two countries "reaffirmed their desire to further strengthen bilateral cooperation" according to a council statement.

Russia is a major arms supplier to Myanmar's military. The trip to Moscow is Min Aung Hlaing's second journey abroad since he became Myanmar's de facto leader.

What is the political situation in Myanmar?

Myanmar's military took control of the country on February 1, with the junta arresting State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi and other members of the ruling National League for Democracy Party.

The coup comes after the military accused Suu Kyi's party of committing fraud in last year's elections.

Suu Kyi is currently on trial for illegally importing walkie-talkies for her bodyguards and violating the pandemic restrictions during last year's election campaign, among other charges. Suu Kyi supporters believe the charges are politically motivated and designed to keep her from returning to office.

Lawyers for Suu Kyi said Monday that she told them some of the legal testimony against her was wrong.

The military has engaged in a controversial crackdown on protesters and the opposition since the coup.

A prominent rights group in the region says over 860 people have been killed by security forces in the past months, with more than 4,500 jailed by the junta.

wd/rt (AFP, Reuters)