Publicado: 04/02/2021

US mulls 'targeted sanctions' on Myanmar military as coup opposition grows

US mulls 'targeted sanctions' on Myanmar military as coup opposition grows

Yangon (AFP) -

The United States said Thursday it was considering 'targeted sanctions' against those funneling financial support to the military in Myanmar, as generals there tightened their grip on social media after launching a coup this week.

Washington has led international condemnation of Monday's putsch, which saw civilian leaders including Aung San Suu Kyi detained and ignited fears the military will drag 54 million people back to the decades of junta rule that turned Myanmar into one of Asia's most impoverished and repressive nations.

National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said the White House is 'looking at specific targeted sanctions both on individuals and on entities controlled by the military that enrich the military.' He did not give further details.

The warning from the US came after Myanmar's generals ordered internet providers to restrict access to Facebook Thursday, as people flocked to social media to voice opposition and share plans for disobedience.

Facebook-owned apps such as Instagram and WhatsApp were also disrupted.

'We have digital power... so we've been using this since day one to oppose the military junta,' said activist Thinzar Shunlei Yi, who is behind a so-called 'Civil Disobedience Movement' fanning out across social media platforms.

Telenor, one of the country's main telecoms providers, confirmed authorities had ordered it to 'temporarily block' Facebook access.

The Norwegian-owned company said it had to comply but 'does not believe that the request is based on necessity and proportionality, in accordance with international human rights law'.

Facebook confirmed access 'is currently disrupted for some people' and urged authorities to restore connectivity.

For many in Myanmar, Facebook is the gateway to the internet and a vital way to gather information.

'The first thing we look at each morning is our phone, the last thing we look at in the night is our phone,' said Aye, a 32-year-old entrepreneur opposed to the coup, who asked AFP to withhold her real name.

A small rally kicked off Thursday in front of a medical university in the northern city of Mandalay, with protesters carrying signs that read: 'People's protest against the military coup!'

Local media said police arrested four people, although authorities could not confirm the detentions to AFP.

Meanwhile, 70 MPs from Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy party signed a 'pledge to serve the public' while staging their own symbolic parliamentary session in Naypyidaw, local media reported.

The biggest demonstration, however, saw hundreds of supporters of the Tatmadaw, as the military is called, rally in the capital Naypyidaw Thursday.

- 'Coup must fail' -

Army chief Min Aung Hlaing's coup has left the international community scrambling to respond.

On Wednesday, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said he would pressure the generals to reverse course, in his most forceful comments yet.

'We will do everything we can to mobilise all the key actors and international community to put enough pressure on Myanmar to make sure that this coup fails,' Guterres told The Washington Post.

'It's absolutely unacceptable to reverse the results of the elections and the will of the people.'

The UN Security Council issued a draft statement Thursday that expressed 'deep concern' and demanded the detainees be freed -- but, in a change from an earlier draft, did not condemn the putsch.

Diplomats said veto-wielding China and Russia, Myanmar's main supporters at the UN, had asked for more time to finesse the council's response. The Chinese mission said it had contributed to the 'improvement' of the text.

Min Aung Hlaing justified his coup by alleging widespread voter fraud during November's election which Suu Kyi, who has not been seen in public since she was detained, won in a huge landslide with her NLD.

International and local observers -- as well as Myanmar's own election monitor -- reported no major issues affecting the integrity of the vote.

Myanmar's junta-era constitution ensures the military retains considerable influence -- but analysts say top generals feared their influence was waning and were dismayed by the enduring appeal of Suu Kyi.

On Wednesday, authorities brought an obscure charge against the 75-year-old to justify her ongoing detention: an offence under Myanmar's import and export law after authorities found unregistered walkie-talkies at her home.

The United States and Britain condemned the charges and called for her immediate release.

- Limited options -

Myanmar's military has declared a one-year state of emergency and said it will hold new elections once its allegations are addressed, causing huge anger inside the nation.

By Thursday, red NLD flags adorned the balconies of dozens of Yangon apartments. Residents have also started clanging pots and cymbals nightly at 8 pm to 'drive the military junta out' -- a throwback to an old Myanmar tradition of expelling evil spirits.

Health workers this week also pinned red ribbons on their scrubs, with some boycotting work.

But opposing the military is fraught with risk. During junta rule dissent was quashed, with thousands of activists -- including Suu Kyi -- detained for years on end.


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