Myanmar activists hold candle-lit protests as EU, U.S. try to pressure junta

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Myanmar protesters held candle-lit vigils for the scores killed in demonstrations against military rule, as Western countries imposed more sanctions on individuals and groups linked to last month’s coup and an ensuing brutal crackdown on dissent.

Hundreds of people clutching candles held a rally in the Ahlone district of the country’s commercial hub of Yangon on Monday night, photographs on social media showed.

At least 261 people have been killed by security forces attempting to quell weeks of pro-democracy protests in towns and cities across the country, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP) activist group.

Three people were killed in Myanmar’s second city, Mandalay in unrest on Monday, including a 15-year-old boy, witnesses and news reports said.

Security forces staged more raids in parts of Yangon on Monday night with shots fired and some people wounded, the Mizzima news service reported.

The junta has tried to justify the coup by saying a Nov. 8 election won by Aung San Suu Kyi’s party was fraudulent – an accusation the electoral commission rejected. Military leaders have promised a new election but have not set a date and have declared a state of emergency.

Suu Kyi, who won the Nobel Peace Prize for her campaign to bring democratic civilian rule to Myanmar, is being held in detention while an array of accusations have been levelled at her, including bribery. Her lawyer says the charges are trumped up.

There were also more examples of demonstrations overnight staged without people in a bid to avoid becoming targeted by security forces trying to stamp out organised rallies.

In Hsipaw in Shan State the names of dead protesters written on cards were laid out next to candles with a sign reading “We spirits don’t want the junta”, DVB TV News reported.

Elsewhere, helium-filled balloons were released on Monday bearing messages calling for international help. Street protesters were replaced by toy cars or dolls, some led by cardboard cutouts or manikins dressed in outfits.

GERMANY SAYS REPRESSION “UNBEARABLE”

The European Union imposed on Monday sanctions against individuals involved in the coup and the repression of the demonstrators, marking the bloc’s most significant response since the overthrow of Suu Kyi’s elected government on Feb. 1.

The 11 targeted included General Min Aung Hlaing, the commander-in-chief of the Myanmar military and head of the junta that has taken power.

The EU already has an arms embargo on Myanmar and has targeted some senior military officials since 2018.

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas told reporters before the meeting that the military repression “has reached an unbearable extent”.

Stronger measures are expected soon as the bloc moves to take aim at the businesses run by the military, EU diplomats said.

Washington had already sanctioned Min Aung Hlaing and the measures announced on Monday expanded the list.

The U.S. action targeted senior policeman Than Hlaing and military officer Aung Soe, as well as two Burmese Army divisions, the 33rd Light Infantry and 77th Light Infantry.

U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said members of the 33rd Division had fired live rounds into a crowd in Mandalay. Both units were part of the security forces’ “planned systemic strategies to ramp up the use of lethal force”, he said.

There was no immediate response from the junta, which has shown no sign so far of being swayed by international condemnation of its actions.

The junta spokesman is scheduled to hold a news conference on Tuesday afternoon.

Singapore’s Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan will visit Malaysia on Tuesday after stopping in Brunei Darussalam on Monday and before heading to Indonesia later this week.

Malaysia and Indonesia are seeking an urgent high-level meeting of Southeast Asia’s ASEAN regional grouping, of which Myanmar is a member, to discuss the crisis.

Reuters

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