The United States has imposed fresh sanctions on 22 individuals including four Myanmar government ministers in response to the February military coup and attacks against the country’s pro-democracy movement.
In a two-pronged action, the Treasury and Commerce Departments announced on Friday the punishments as part of Washington’s continued response to the overthrow of Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi’s elected government in February.
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Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement that the new sanctions were levied “in response to the brutal campaign of violence perpetrated by the Burmese military regime and to continue imposing costs in connection with the military coup.”
The sanctions do not target the Myanmar people, but are aimed at pressuring the military to “immediately restore Burma’s (Myanmar’s) path to democracy,” Blinken said.
The sanctions target Myanmar’s minister of information Chit Naing, minister for investment Aung Naing Oo, labour and immigration minister Myint Kyaing, and Thet Thet Khine, the minister for social welfare, relief and resettlement.
Three members of the powerful State Administrative Council were also hit with sanctions, as were 15 spouses and adult children of officials, in an expansion of US punishments imposed in February, March and May following the coup.
Under the sanctions, all US property in the name of the individuals are blocked, and Americans or people in the US are prohibited from conducting property or interest transactions with them.
Andrea Gacki, director of Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control, said in a statement the action demonstrates Washington “will continue to impose increasing costs on Burma’s military and promote accountability for those responsible for the military coup and ongoing violence”.
The US and other western countries have already imposed several sanctions against individuals in Myanmar since the coup.
The Department of Commerce meanwhile slapped sanctions on four business entities: King Royal Technologies Co, which provides satellite communications services supporting the military; and Wanbao Mining and its two subsidiaries, which have revenue-sharing agreements with a company that helps fund the country’s defence ministry.
The actions come as Myanmar rejected new figures released by the United Nations, which said there were reports from within the country that security forces have killed at least 883 unarmed people, including at least 40 who are believed to have died in custody.
At a Tuesday briefing, a spokesman for UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told reporters that the global agency’s country team also determined that 5,202 people were in detention as a result of their opposition to the military takeover.
Candle light night strike against military dictatorship led by youths of Nyaw Pyin village, Launglon Township, was successfully demonstrated tonight. #WhatsHappeningInMyanmar #July2Coup pic.twitter.com/Pdg1xMrJcY
— Nyinyi (@Nyinyi92381213) July 3, 2021
Myanmar’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement that it “strongly objects” to the numbers presented by the United Nations.
“The United Nations is requested not to release one-sided remarks without verification and to verify sensitive information with relevant focal ministries before its release,” the statement added.
Authorities on Wednesday released more than 2,000 anti-coup protesters from prisons across Myanmar, including local journalists jailed after reporting critically on the military’s crackdown.
On Saturday, there have been reports of the possible release of more people from prison, as the country’s military leader Gen Min Aung Hlaing marks his birthday.
Meanwhile, protesters remained defiant of Min Aung Hlaing’s leadership, with several protests held across the nation on Saturday denouncing him. Many protesters also held a symbolic cremation of his image while laying funeral wreaths emblazoned with the general’s name.
Protests were even held in the country’s second city of Mandalay despite a lockdown order on Friday due to the spread of COVID. At least two million residents are covered by the order.
Myanmar’s creaking healthcare system has already been struggling to respond to the pandemic even before the February coup that deposed Aung San Suu Kyi.
Since the coup, thousands of doctors, volunteers and civil servants have joined a mass civil disobedience campaign to protest against the military regime.
Myanmar has reported 3,347 virus-related deaths, although true figures are likely to be higher.