According to military leader Min Aung Hlaing, Burma “must devote its energy to reviving the country’s sluggish economy”. On February 22, the EU and the US adopted sanctions against junta leaders.
The pressure is increasing on the military junta responsible for the coup d’état of February 1, 2021 in Burma. The United States and the European Union adopted new sanctions on February 22, while some of the most massive demonstrations since the putsch took place in the country on the same day.
The Burmese authorities have intensified the use of force against demonstrators for three weeks. Three of them have been killed since the coup, and a man was shot dead in Yangon while patrolling to avoid mass arrests in his neighborhood. Since the putsch, more than 680 people have been arrested, charged or sentenced, according to an NGO providing assistance to political prisoners quoted by AFP. Almost all of them are still imprisoned.
According to the army, this coup d’etat is the result of fraud on the part of the National League for Democracy, Aung San Suu Kyi’s party, during the legislative elections of November 8, 2020. The electoral commission however rejected these fraud complaints.
On the night of February 22-23, 2021, the United States announced sanctions against two leaders of the military junta that overthrew the civilian government of Aung San Suu Kyi: General Maung Maung Kyaw, at the head of the Air Force, and Lieutenant General Moe Myint Tun. Similar measures had already been announced by Washington targeting several leaders of the army in power, including the leader, General Min Aung Hlaing.
European Union and United States announce sanctions
“We will not hesitate to take further action against those who commit acts of violence and suppress the will of the people. We will not waver in our support for the Burmese people, ”warned US Secretary of State Antony Blinken. The US foreign minister called on “the military and police to cease all attacks on peaceful protesters, immediately release all those unjustly detained, end attacks and intimidation against journalists and activists, and to restore the democratically elected government ”.
A few hours before the American announcement, the European Union had already decided to take sanctions against the economic and financial interests of the soldiers responsible for the coup. “Any direct financial assistance […] government reform programs is suspended, ”said the head of European diplomacy Josep Borrell, who however clarified that the EU did not want to reduce its trade relations with Burma, so as not to penalize the population. He co-signed a statement with the G7 foreign ministers to “strongly condemn the violence committed by the Burmese security forces against peaceful demonstrations”.
These sanctions come in particular after the Burmese army has stepped up the repression of protest movements, using rubber bullets, tear gas, water cannons and live ammunition against demonstrators. In the streets of Rangoon, the economic capital, significant military means have been deployed. Barricades, for example, have been set up around crossroads and arteries leading to embassies to prevent demonstrators from gathering.
For his part, Burmese junta leader Min Aung Hlaing called for efforts to revive a struggling economy, state media reported on February 23. The call came after a general strike hit businesses on February 22. Opponents of the coup met again on February 23, although in much smaller numbers. There were also small marches in favor of the military, media reported. No cases of violence were reported.
Military chief Gen. Min Aung Hlaing, in a meeting with his governing council on February 22, called for cutting state spending and imports and increasing exports. “The council must devote its energy to reviving the country’s sluggish economy. Measures of economic remedy must be taken, explained a statement transmitted by the public media, and relayed by Reuters.