Western nations step up pressure on Myanmar junta

G-7 members reiterate opposition to coup, slam violence committed against protesters

Protesters at the funeral of Mr Thet Naing Win, who was shot last week while taking part in a rally, in Mandalay yesterday. The G-7 nations - comprising Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Britain and the US - as well as the EU's High Representati
Protesters at the funeral of Mr Thet Naing Win, who was shot last week while taking part in a rally, in Mandalay yesterday. The G-7 nations - comprising Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Britain and the US - as well as the EU's High Representative reiterated their opposition to the Feb 1 coup in Myanmar and the increasingly heavy-handed response to protests. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

LONDON • The Group of Seven (G-7) countries said yesterday they "firmly condemn" violence committed by Myanmar's security forces against protesters and urged them to "exercise utmost restraint and respect human rights and international law".

The bloc of wealthy nations - comprising Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Britain and the United States - as well as the European Union's High Representative reiterated their opposition to the Feb 1 coup and the increasingly heavy-handed response to demonstrations.

"Use of live ammunition against unarmed people is unacceptable. Anyone responding to peaceful protests with violence must be held to account," G-7 foreign ministers said in a statement.

"We condemn the intimidation and oppression of those opposing the coup.

"We raise our concern at the crackdown on freedom of expression, including through the Internet blackout and draconian changes to the law that repress free speech."

Western countries are seeking to pressure the junta to avoid a violent crackdown after weeks of protests.

A general strike shut businesses in the South-east Asian country on Monday as huge crowds gathered peacefully despite a warning from the authorities to stop attending the rallies, with smaller protests held yesterday.

Meanwhile, Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi will fly to Myanmar tomorrow in the first known trip to the country by a foreign envoy since the military coup, according to a leaked government document.

The letter from the Ministry of Transport, which a Myanmar official confirmed to Reuters was authentic, said Ms Retno would arrive in the morning and fly back several hours later.

Indonesian Foreign Ministry spokesman Tengku Faizasyah said the minister was in Thailand and may travel to other countries in the region afterwards, but could not confirm which.

  • No significant funds from Myanmar in S'pore banks: MAS

  • The Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) said yesterday that its regular surveillance of the banking system has not found significant funds from Myanmar companies and individuals in banks in Singapore.

    In response to media queries, the authority said in a statement: "MAS expects financial institutions to remain vigilant to any transactions that could pose risks to the institution, including dealings with companies and individuals subject to financial sanctions by foreign jurisdictions.

    "MAS also expects financial institutions in Singapore, as always, to comply with MAS regulations that implement United Nations Security Council resolutions, and guard against fund flows that could be related to illicit activities.

    "MAS closely supervises financial institutions to check that processes are in place for compliance and takes appropriate enforcement actions where there are serious lapses."

Ms Retno has been rallying support in South-east Asia for a special meeting on Myanmar and sources said Jakarta has proposed that the region sends monitors to ensure the Myanmar generals hold "fair and inclusive" elections.

Myanmar's security forces have shown more restraint since the coup than in earlier confrontations with supporters of Ms Aung San Suu Kyi in almost half a century of direct military rule.

Even so, three protesters have been killed - two shot dead in Mandalay last Saturday, and a woman who died last Friday after being shot more than a week earlier in Naypyitaw.

The army has said one policeman died of injuries sustained during the protests. It has accused protesters of provoking violence.

Military-run Myawaddy News reported that junta chief Min Aung Hlaing had said the military was following a democratic path and, referring to rubber bullets, that it wanted to use minimal force.

The army seized power after alleging fraud in the Nov 8 election in which Ms Suu Kyi's party, the National League for Democracy, trounced a pro-military party. The army detained her and much of the party leadership.

A rights group said 684 people have been arrested, charged or sentenced since the coup.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 24, 2021, with the headline 'Western nations step up pressure on Myanmar junta'. Subscribe