UK, Canada impose sanctions on Myanmar generals

LONDON • Britain and Canada have imposed sanctions on Myanmar's ruling generals for toppling the civilian-led government while Japan said it had agreed with the United States, India and Australia that democracy must be restored there quickly.

Western countries have condemned the Feb 1 overthrow and detention of elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi, which has also brought daily mass demonstrations to the streets of the South-east Asian country.

Following sanctions from the US unveiled last week, both Britain and Canada have announced their measures.

The United Kingdom said it would impose asset freezes and travel bans on three generals while Canada said it would take action against nine military officials.

"We, alongside our international allies, will hold the Myanmar military to account for their violations of human rights and pursue justice for the Myanmar people," said British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab.

Britain already had sanctions in place on junta leader Min Aung Hlaing, accusing him of human rights abuses against Muslim Rohingya and other ethnic minority groups.

Myanmar's government made no immediate reaction to the new sanctions. On Tuesday, an army spokesman told a news conference that sanctions had been expected.

The Myanmar army has closer ties with China and Russia, which have taken a softer approach.

There is little history of Myanmar's generals giving in to foreign pressure. But they also face a challenge in the country of 53 million from protests that have drawn hundreds of thousands of people and strikes that have paralysed much government business.

The coup halted a tentative transition to democracy that began in 2011 after nearly half a century of army rule, raising fears of a return to an old era of isolation despite the generals' promise to hold fair elections.

The US, Australia, India and Japan - which together form the informal Quad grouping - called for the strengthening of democracy in Asia and reversing Myanmar's coup.

The US State Department said Secretary of State Antony Blinken and his counterparts who attended a Quad meeting on Thursday discussed "the urgent need to restore the democratically elected government in Burma", referring to Myanmar by its former name.

They also addressed "the priority of strengthening democratic resilience in the broader region", the State Department added.

Foreign ministers Marise Payne (Australia), Subrahmanyam Jaishankar (India) and Toshimitsu Motegi (Japan) also attended the meeting.

"We've all agreed on the need to swiftly restore the democratic system (in Myanmar)", and to strongly oppose all unilateral attempts to change the status quo by force, Mr Motegi told reporters.

India, which has distanced itself from Western efforts to slap new sanctions on Myanmar, was more cautious in its statement on the Quad talks, saying Mr Jaishankar emphasised the "upholding of rule of law and the democratic transition".

The partners also pledged "to strengthen cooperation on advancing a free and open Indo-Pacific region, including support for freedom of navigation and territorial integrity".

The virtual meeting was the first since the new US administration of President Joe Biden took charge.

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, BLOOMBERG

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 20, 2021, with the headline 'UK, Canada impose sanctions on Myanmar generals'. Subscribe