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Rising violence raises pressure for Myanmar sanctions

BANGKOK (AP) – Rising violence in Myanmar as authorities crack down on protests against the February 1 coup is pushing for more sanctions against the junta, even as countries struggle to best influence those sentenced to global condemnation. to military leaders.

The challenge is compounded by the fear of harming citizens of a society already suffering from a worsening economic downturn, but exacerbating the risk of arrest and injury due to the seizure of military force. Still, activists and experts say there are ways to increase pressure on the regime, especially the availability of repression tools to cut off funding sources.

On Friday, the UN special envoy called on the Security Council to work to contain the violence, which has killed and injured about 50 protesters this week.

“There is an urgency for collective action,” Christine Schrener Burger told the congregation. “How much longer can we allow the Myanmar Armed Forces to leave?”

Coordinated action by the United Nations, however, is difficult, as permanent members of the Security Council, China and Russia, will almost certainly veto it. Myanmar’s neighbors, its largest trading partners and sources of investment, are also reluctant to impose sanctions.

Some actions have already been taken. The United States, Britain, and Canada have tightened restrictions on Myanmar’s military, their families, and other senior junta leaders. The United States has blocked an attempt by the military to gain more than $ 1 billion in access to the Central Bank of Myanmar.

But a report released last week said that overriding military interests remained “largely undisputed,” said Thomas Andrews, the UN special rapporteur on the human rights situation in Myanmar. Some governments have suspended aid, and the World Bank has said it is suspending funding and reviewing its plans.

It is unclear whether the sanctions imposed so far, although symbolically possible, will have a major impact. Schraner Burgener told UN correspondents that the military had refused to warn of possible “enormous measures” against the coup, saying “we are used to sanctions, we have experienced sanctions before.”

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The Justice for Myanmar activist group has released a list of dozens of foreign companies that it says have provided such tools of repression to the government, which is now fully under military control.

It cited budget documents from the Ministry of the Interior ի Transport և Communications, which show forensic data purchases, tracking, password recovery, drones, other equipment from the United States, Israel, the EU, Japan, Aponia, and other countries. Such technologies can have benign or even useful uses, such as combating human trafficking. But they are also used to track protesters, both online and offline.

Restricted transactions with predominantly military conglomerates, including the Myanmar Economic Corporation, the Myanmar Economic Holdings LLC, and the Myanmar Oil and Gas Company, may also deal more blows, with minimal impact on individuals, small, private companies.

One idea of ​​getting support is for the junta to enter the country from foreign oil, gas and gas revenues paid for in banks. Chris Sidotti, a former member of the UN Independent International Fact-Finding Mission in Myanmar, said this. Thursday

Myanmar’s largest oil and gas exports are a major source of foreign exchange needed to pay for imports. The country’s $ 1.4 billion oil and gas mining industry accounts for more than a third of exports and most of tax revenues.

“The money supply must be stopped. “This is the most urgent priority, the most direct step that can be taken,” said Sidotti, a founding member of the newly formed Myanmar Special Advisory Council.

“Unfortunately, such measures can require commitment և time, և” time is not on the side of the people of Myanmar when these crimes are committed, “he said.

After the 1962 coup, Myanmar’s economy was in isolation. In the decades that followed, many sanctions imposed by Western governments were lifted after the country began its tumultuous transition to democracy in 2011. Some of these restrictions were restored after the brutal actions of the army. 2017 against the Rohingya Muslim minority in the northwestern state of Myanmar

The European Union (EU) has said it is reviewing its policy and is ready to take restrictive measures against those directly responsible for the coup. Japan Aponia also said it was discussing what to do.

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) convened a virtual meeting on March 2 to discuss Myanmar. Later, its president issued a statement calling for an end to the violence and for talks to be reached for a peaceful settlement.

But ASEAN accepted Myanmar as a member in 1997, long before the military, known as the Tatmadav, launched reforms that helped elect a quasi-civilian government led by Aung San Suu Kyi. Most ASEAN governments have authoritarian leaders or one-party rule. According to tradition, they are committed to agreeing not to interfere in each other’s internal affairs.

Despite their lack of appetite for sanctions, some ASEAN governments have strongly condemned the coup, followed by arrests and killings.

An Indonesian lawyer, Marzuki Darusman, the former head of the fact-finding mission to Sidot, said he believed the spiraling, brutal violence against protesters had shaken ASEAN’s view that the crisis was a purely internal matter.

“ASEAN considers it imperative that it play a role in resolving the Myanmar crisis,” Darusman said.

Thailand, which has a 2,400-kilometer (1,500-mile) border with Myanmar and more than 2 million single migrants, does not want more to flee its territory, especially as it struggles with the epidemic.

Kavi Chongkitwatorn, a senior fellow at the Institute for Security and International Studies at Chulalongkorn University, also believes that ASEAN wants to return to Myanmar’s civilian government to adopt a “carrot-stick” approach at best.

But the biggest hope, he said, is with the protesters.

“The people of Myanmar are very brave. “This is the number one pressure on the earth,” Chongkitttavorn said at a seminar at the East-West Center in Hawaii. “It is clear that the junta also knows what they have to do to move forward, otherwise the sanctions will be much stricter.”

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