YANGON — The United Kingdom and Canada have imposed sanctions on Myanmar’s top military generals, in response to human rights violations following the Feb. 1 military takeover.
The UK announced on Thursday that it has imposed sanctions on defense minister General Mya Tun O, home affairs minister Lieutenant General Soe Htut and his deputy, Lt Gen Than Hlaing, for their role in serious rights violations.
London will freeze assets and enforce travel bans against the three. The alleged rights breaches include violating the right to life, freedom of assembly and the right not to be subject to arbitrary detention, according to the UK’s Foreign Office statement.
Since the Feb. 1 military takeover, the regime arrested and charged 521 people, including State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. Among them, 477 are still in detention or face outstanding warrants, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP).
UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said: “We, alongside our international allies, will hold the Myanmar military to account for their violations of human rights and pursue justice for the Myanmar people.”
The UK said support for government-led reforms has been axed and planned programmes will close. Instead, the former colonial power said it will move to ensure aid reaches only the poorest and most vulnerable citizens in Myanmar.
The Canadian government also announced sanctions against nine officers, including coup leaders Senior General Min Aung Hlaing and Vice-Senior General Soe Win and chairman and vice-chairman of the State Administrative Council (SAC) formed by the junta.
The ban included assets freezes and “prohibition on dealings by prohibiting persons in Canada and Canadians outside Canada from dealing in any property of these individuals or providing financial or related services to them”, the statement said.
Myanmar’s military and the SAC have been engaged in a systemic campaign of repression through coercive legislative measures and use of force, including mass arbitrary detentions, restrictions on access to information and the right to freedom of opinion and expression, association and assembly, since the coup, Canada said.
Canada’s foreign affairs minister, Marc Garneau, said: “Canada will not accept the actions of the Myanmar military and their complete disregard for the will and democratic rights of the people of Myanmar.”
“We stand in solidarity with the people of Myanmar and their aspirations for a democratic future,” he said
Dr. Wai Phyo Aung of the committee representing elected members of the Union Parliament from the National League for Democracy told The Irrawaddy: “We appreciate that the international community is taking action against the military for its unlawful act.”
He urged countries to impose targeted sanctions on businesses that support the military and provide an income to the military leadership.
Another committee member, Daw Zin Mar Aung, said travel bans are ineffective for the generals as, under the previous regime, generals’ children were allowed to study in the west and some of their relatives could settle in western countries with new identities.
“We need collective punishment on businesses not only linked with the military regime but also owned by [military-appointed] ministers or members of the regime’s cabinet,” Daw Zin Mar Aung said
Human Rights Watch on Thursday urged the international community to impose targeted sanctions on military-owned companies, like Myanmar Economic Corporation and Myanmar Economic Holdings Limited, which provide direct revenue to the military and its leaders.
John Sifton from the New York-based group said: “The international response to the coup has to be smart, strong and sustained. The only way Myanmar’s generals are going to back down is if the costs of staying in power are made too great to bear.”
Last week, the US government added sanctions on 10 members of the regime, including six SAC members, and other military chiefs and on three entities connected to the military.
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