The European Union has imposed sanctions on ten military leaders in Myanmar, as well as two giant military conglomerates, in its toughest measures to date against the February 1 coup and the bloody crackdown on protesters demanding the return of the elected government.
Announcing the sanctions on Monday, which include asset freezes and visa bans, EU member states said individuals are “all responsible for undermining democracy and the rule of law in Myanmar / Burma, as well as making repressive decisions and actions serious human rights violations “.
Myanmar’s State Administration Council (SAC), which was installed by the military the day after the seizure of power, was “responsible for undermining democracy and the rule of law,” the EU said in its official gazette.
“The armed forces and authorities operating under the control of the SAC have committed serious human rights violations and killed civilian and unarmed demonstrators since February 1, 2021,” the EU said.
Nine of the selected people are members of the State Administrative Council. Information Minister U Chit Naing was also sanctioned.
Myanmar has been rocked by almost daily protests since the coup, and the military has stepped up its attempts to quell dissent, despite the UN and Western countries condemning their takeover and escalating violence.
According to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners human rights group, which is overseeing the situation, thousands have been arrested and at least 738 civilians have been killed since the coup. More than 4,000 people have been arrested and 3,261 are still in custody, according to the group, which the military has accused of spreading “false news”.
The EU has also taken action against Myanmar Economic Holdings Public Company Limited (MEHL) and Myanmar Economic Corporation Limited (MEC) for “being owned and controlled by the Myanmar Armed Forces (Tatmadaw) and providing revenue for them” added the statement.
The conglomerates’ wide-ranging business interests include shopping malls, breweries, entertainment venues, and tobacco, which bring substantial over-budget revenues for the military. The United States and the United Kingdom have already sanctioned the companies, and the US has also sanctioned the state-owned gem company.
Today’s imposition of EU sanctions on two military-owned conglomerates in Myanmar is a step in the right direction.
Next, governments must take further action to cut the money and keep the military alive. # WhatsHappeningInMyanmar https://t.co/OOys7C5oJm pic.twitter.com/Z2aT7YXMhc
– Global Witness (@Global_Witness) April 19, 2021
Federal Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said after the virtual talks with his EU colleagues on Monday that the military government was “maneuvering the country into a dead end”.
Therefore, he said, “we are increasing the pressure to bring the military to the negotiating table”.
The sanctions, long requested by human rights groups, prevent EU investors and banks from doing business with the companies.
“MEHL and its subsidiaries generate revenue (for the military), thereby contributing to its ability to carry out activities that undermine democracy and the rule of law, as well as serious human rights abuses in Myanmar,” the EU said. She made the same charges against MEC, stressing that the sanctions are aimed at avoiding “undue harm” to the Myanmar people.
The military has justified its takeover after 10 years of tentative moves towards democracy by claiming that the November 2020 election, in which Aung San Suu Kyi and her party returned to power in a landslide, were fraudulent. The electoral commission, whose members were also detained during the coup, denied the allegations.
“# ASEAN’s role is more important than ever as the Myanmar region is facing an urgent crisis,” says @antonioguterres. Governments must work together to “put an end to violence and military repression”. #WhatsHappeninglnMyanmar https://t.co/drYXyRQFoY
– John Quinley III (@ john_hq3) April 20, 2021
As the protests continued in Myanmar on Monday, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told the Security Council that a “robust international response based on unified regional efforts” was required and called on “regional actors to exert their influence.” to use to prevent further deterioration and ultimately. ” , find a peaceful way out of this disaster. “
The ten-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), which Myanmar joined in 1997 under a previous military government, will hold a special summit on April 24th on the coup and its aftermath. Min Aung Hlaing will be present.
Guterres’ predecessor, Ban Ki-moon, also spoke to the Security Council, calling on the council to go beyond the allegations of collective action and to respond more for ASEAN, which makes consensual decisions and does not intervene on issues it believes are domestic affairs robust.
“ASEAN must make it clear to the Myanmar military that the current situation is so grave that it cannot be viewed as an internal matter,” he said.
Myanmar’s elected government and supporters have set up a parallel administration – the government of national unity – and asked ASEAN to invite them to the summit.
A group of regional parliamentarians on Tuesday called on ASEAN to “give (the unity government) a seat at the table” and to treat the invitation to Min Aung Hlaing with “extreme caution”.
“ASEAN cannot adequately discuss the situation in Myanmar without hearing and speaking to the government of national unity,” said Charles Santiago, chairman of the ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR) and Malaysian MP. “If ASEAN really wants to strengthen democracy, as stated in its charter, they have to give them a seat at the table. After all, they are the embodiment of democracy in Myanmar. “
APHR also said that the regional grouping should invite Christine Schraner Burgener, the secretary-general’s special envoy for Myanmar, to the summit. She communicated with the generals, but they refused to allow her to visit Myanmar.