US and 6 others raise alert on Myanmar army operations

WASHINGTON • The United States yesterday issued a joint statement along with Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Norway, South Korea and Britain, expressing concern over a military offensive in Myanmar that they say is disproportionately harming civilians.

Washington and other nations have repeatedly denounced a Feb 1 coup that threw the South-east Asian country into turmoil, with regional militias taking up arms after the military attempted to crush widespread protests.

In their joint statement, the nations expressed their "grave concern" over reports of abuses, including sexual violence and torture, especially in the north-western area that comprises Chin state and the regions of Sagaing and Magwe, where at least 50,000 people are reported to have been displaced.

They called for the junta, which has been accused of destroying homes and churches, to immediately end the violence.

"We are concerned about allegations of weapons stockpiling and attacks by the military, including shelling and air strikes, use of heavy weapons, and the deployment of thousands of troops accompanying what security forces assert are counter-terrorism operations, which are disproportionately impacting civilians," the countries said.

Myanmar's army has called the militias "terrorists" intent on destroying the country.

The United Nations Security Council on Nov 10 issued a statement expressing concern and calling for the cessation of violence.

The seven nations went further yesterday, calling for countries to "suspend all operational support to the military, and to cease the transfer of arms, materiel, dual-use equipment and technical assistance to the military and its representatives".

The joint statement came after Myanmar's ruling military threatened yesterday to arrest citizens who invest in bonds offered by a shadow government, warning of lengthy prison terms for their involvement in what it called "terrorist" financing.

The National Unity Government (NUG), an alliance of pro-democracy groups, ethnic minority armies and the remnants of the civilian government overthrown by the military, said this week that it had raised US$9.5 million (S$13 million) in the first 24 hours of its bond sale.

The NUG said the proceeds from the zero-interest bonds will fund its "revolution" against the military in response to the coup and bloody suppression of protests. It has not said how the funds would be used.

Junta spokesman Zaw Min Tun said the NUG has been outlawed as a "terrorist organisation", so those providing it with funding faced serious charges. "Action can be taken under terrorism charges, with heavy sentences for those financing the terrorist groups," he said at a regular televised news conference. "If you buy the money bonds, it falls under that (provision)."

The bonds went on sale on Monday to mainly Myanmar nationals overseas in denominations of US$100, US$500, US$1,000 and US$5,000, with two-year tenures.

The NUG did not disclose how many buyers took part in the sale, which requires participants to transfer funds to an account in the Czech Republic.

REUTERS

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 27, 2021, with the headline US and 6 others raise alert on Myanmar army operations. Subscribe