US, allies coordinate new sanctions on Myanmar junta

Myanmar has been in crisis since the military seized power in a February coup. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

WASHINGTON (REUTERS) - The United States, United Kingdom and Canada on Monday (May 17) imposed new sanctions targeting Myanmar's junta, increasing pressure on the military in the latest in a series of punitive actions since it took power in a Feb 1 coup.

The United States targeted the governing State Administrative Council (SAC) and 13 officials, the move freezing any US assets of those listed and generally bars Americans from dealing with them.

Canada said it imposed additional sanctions on individuals and entities tied to the Myanmar armed forces, while Britain announced sanctions against state-owned enterprise Myanmar Gems Enterprise which was included in previous US sanctions.

The South-East Asian country, also known as Burma, has been in crisis since the military seized power from Aung San Suu Kyi's elected government, with near daily protests and a crackdown by the junta in which hundreds of people have been killed.

Western nations have led condemnation of the junta and applied limited sanctions. The junta's allegations of irregularities in an election won by Suu Kyi's party in November were rejected by the electoral commission.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the junta had made no attempt to restore Myanmar's path to democracy, and called on all countries to consider measures such as arms embargoes and ending commercial cooperation with military-owned entities.

He also urged the military to immediately cooperate with the United Nations and Members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) to implement a five-point plan reached by consensus last month, which includes an end to violence and dialogue between the military and its opponents.

"Our actions today underscore our resolve and that of our partners to apply political and financial pressure on the regime as long as it fails to stop violence and take meaningful action to respect the will of the people," Blinken said in a statement.

The US Treasury Department in a statement accused the SAC, formed a day after the coup, of being created by Myanmar's military to support it's "unlawful overthrow of the democratically elected civilian government".

The US sanctions list included four members of the SAC and nine other officials the Treasury said were key members of Myanmar's military government, including the governor of the central bank and the chairman of the military-appointed electoral body, the Union Election Commission.

The move appeared to be the first time Washington has targeted civilian officials who are working with the junta, although some of them are retired military officers.

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