US 'strongly' condemns violence against protesters as EU weighs sanctions on Myanmar military

Protesters and security forces facing off in Yangon on Feb 9, 2021.
Protesters and security forces facing off in Yangon on Feb 9, 2021.PHOTO: NYTIMES

WASHINGTON/BRUSSELS (AFP) - The United States on Tuesday (Feb 9) denounced the use of force against anti-coup protesters in Myanmar, renewing a call for their freedom of expression.

"We strongly condemn violence against demonstrators," State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters.

"All individuals in Burma have rights to freedom of expression, association, peaceful assembly, including for the purposes of peaceful protest," he said.

"We repeat our calls for the military to relinquish power, restore democratically elected government, release those detained and lift all telecommunication restrictions and to refrain from violence," he said.

Witnesses said police fired rubber bullets and fired a water cannon at protesters in the remote capital Naypyidaw.

The junta has also imposed restrictions on freedom of assembly and attempted an internet blackout a week after arresting civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

Her party, the National League for Democracy, said that the military raided and destroyed its office late Tuesday.

Elsewhere in Europe, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said Tuesday the bloc could impose fresh sanctions on Myanmar's military over its seizure of power, but warned any punishment should not hit the population.

"We are currently reviewing all our options," Borrell told lawmakers at the European Parliament.

Borrell said one of the paths open to the bloc were "additional targeted sanctions on individuals and on business owned by the military".

The EU already has an arms embargo on Myanmar and has slapped asset freezes and visa bans on 14 officials over the bloody crackdown on the country's Rohingya.

The military ousted and detained civilian leader Aung Sun Suu Kyi in a coup last week that has drawn widespread international condemnation.

Borrell said the EU could also review development assistance to Myanmar or curb trade ties with the southeast Asian nation.

But the former Spanish minister insisted that the bloc "should avoid rushing into measures which could adversely affect the most vulnerable part of the population".

He said foreign ministers from the EU's 27 nations would discuss the next moves at a meeting on February 22.

"We will ensure that we are doing nothing to legitimise the actions of the military, while trying to maintain support to the people of Myanmar," he said.