The European Union has called for an international arms embargo on Myanmar’s military government and for toughening its own sanctions following last week’s massacre of more than 35 people.
The killings took place on Christmas Eve in eastern Kayah state, where pro-democracy rebels have been fighting the military, which took over the government from the democratically elected administration in February.
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The EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell on Thursday said “the appalling act of violence perpetrated by the military regime” on civilians and humanitarian workers underlined the “urgent need” to hold the military accountable.
“In view of the escalating violence in Myanmar, increased international preventive action is required, including an arms embargo,” Borrell said in a statement.
“The EU also stands ready to impose further sanctions against the military regime,” he added.
His call for an international arms embargo echoed one Tuesday from the United States.
Western nations have long restricted weapons to Myanmar’s military, which even during the pre-coup democratic transition faced allegations of crimes against humanity for a bloody campaign against the Rohingya minority.
The UN General Assembly voted in June to prevent arms shipments into Myanmar, but the measure was symbolic as it was not taken up by the more powerful Security Council.
China and Russia, which hold veto power on the Security Council – as well as neighbouring India – are the key arms providers to Myanmar.
On Wednesday, the UN Security Council condemned last week’s killings and “stressed the need to ensure accountability for this act”.
Security Council members also called “for the immediate cessation of all violence and emphasized the importance of respect for human rights and of ensuring safety of civilians”.
The Mirror Daily, a media outlet run by Myanmar’s military, reported that those killed on December 24 included armed recruits with resistance groups, who allegedly shot at the soldiers with guns and grenades – a claim that a rebel group called “a lie”.
Myanmar has been in chaos since a military coup in February, with more than 1,300 people killed in a crackdown by security forces, according to a tally by the rights monitor Association for Assistance of Political Prisoners (AAPP).
Since the coup, the EU has imposed targeted sanctions on the Myanmar military, its leaders and entities.
The bloc has also halted EU financial assistance to the government and froze assistance that could be seen as legitimising the military regime.
Borrell said, “the targeting of civilians and humanitarian actors is unacceptable and a blatant violation of human rights and international law, including humanitarian law.”
He called for “full, safe and unhindered humanitarian access to” Myanmar’s people while demanding complete protection for humanitarian workers and medical personnel.
International charity Save the Children said two of its employees were among those killed in the massacre.
The EU said it will continue providing humanitarian aid to the people.
New United Nations special envoy on #Myanmar Noeleen Heyzer calls for new year's ceasefire. Says she will "continue to focus on mobilising coherent international support grounded on regional unity" towards a "Myanmar-led process" #WhatsHappeningInMyanmarhttps://t.co/bPu2524IyD
— Tan Hui Yee (@Tan_Hui_Yee) December 27, 2021
In a separate development, a Myanmar court jailed three prominent show business figures for three years each for their part in protests against the February coup, according to media reports.
Among those who took part were high-profile actor couple Pyay Ti Oo and Eaindra Kyaw Zin, who were arrested in April and charged under a section of the penal code that outlaws the spreading of dissent.
A court in the main city of Yangon jailed them for three years with hard labour, the Mizzima news agency and the BBC’s Burmese-language service reported.
Famous actor-director Lu Min, who has starred in more than 1,000 films, received the same sentence on the same charge, Mizzima and the BBC also reported.
Another celebrity, male model Paing Takhon, was sentenced to three years in jail with hard labour on Monday, according to his lawyer.
According to the AAPP, more than 11,000 have been jailed in a crackdown on protests and armed opposition since the coup.