TOn Monday, the United States imposed new sanctions on the top leaders of Myanmar’s military junta on the eve of the anniversary of their overthrow of the country’s democratically elected government and the imprisonment of its leader, Aung San Suu Kyi.
The US, joined by the UK and Canada, announced sanctions against officials who helped prosecute Aung San Suu Kyi, head of the National League for Democracy. The Nobel Peace Prize winner was arrested during the February 1, 2021 coup. As of 10 January, the Myanmar courts have sentenced her to six years in prison, but she faces additional charges.
Washington also imposed fines on the heir The Cho Taung familywho is New York once said he had close ties to the Myanmar military and helped them procure equipment. Sanctions have also been directed against the Myanmar government agency responsible for purchasing weapons for the armed forces, locally known as the Tatmadaw.
But Myanmar activists and watchers say targeted sanctions will do little to contain a brutal regime that is increasingly isolated from the West and determined to quell resistance to its rule through brutal repression. More than 1,500 people have been killed in clashes with the junta across the country, according to the human rights group, the Association for the Assistance of Political Prisoners.
“I think it’s fair to say that after the coup, the West had little leverage on Myanmar both politically and on the ground,” says John Nielsen, senior analyst at the Danish Institute of International Studies and former Danish ambassador to Myanmar.
Democracy protesters have long called on the international community to find ways to cut off the junta’s revenue streams. And after last year’s coup, several Western firms, including energy giants, Total Energy France and chevrons United States – promised to withdraw business from Myanmar due to human rights violations in the country.
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Junta leader Min Aung Hlaing and other members of the Tatmadaw were already under US and other sanctions. Human Rights Watch called on the UN Security Council to impose a legally binding global arms embargo on Myanmar.
But in addition to the punitive measures, Burmese exiles say the international community must work to protect the people suffering under the junta’s rule. London-based Burmese activist and scholar Maung Zarni says neighboring states should open their borders to Burmese refugees fleeing the Tatmadaw.
They are also wary of the dialogue with the warlords advocated by neighboring countries, including some members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). Nai San Lwin, co-founder of the Rohingya Freedom Coalition, a global network of Rohingya activists and allies, says many Burmese protesters believe such talks will only strengthen the legitimacy of the coup leaders.
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But not everyone eschews the Tatmadaw. Russia has been criticized for warming up after the coup in Myanmar. keep selling guns and its officials who were present events led by the junta. China also does business with Myanmar, but is more ambivalent: it called for “restart the democratic process” in the Southeast Asian country, interacting with both the Tatmadaw and the ethnic military. “China’s main goals in Myanmar are to ensure stability on the borders and gain access to the Indian Ocean through the economic corridor from Kunming to Rakhine. They will work with any party to the conflict to achieve these goals – and that is, in fact, what they do,” says Nielsen.
Jason Tower, US Institute of Peace director for Myanmar, says a regional approach to the crisis is needed as companies closely linked to the junta operate in neighboring states. If the US and its allies can convince Myanmar’s neighbors, including Thailand and India, to crack down on these firms, it could greatly affect the cash flow of military leaders.
But the window for such actions may close. Cambodia assumed the ASEAN Presidency in 2022. And Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen is not a supporter of democracy –gave conditional invitation to coup leader in Myanmar. Last year, nine countries banned the representative of the Myanmar junta from attending its meetings.
A growing number of activists say they cannot rely on the international community to support their cause to restore democratic government in Myanmar. They place their hope in the ethnic minority militias who have long fought the Tatmadaw and in the People’s Defense Forces, an armed group made up of members of Myanmar’s exiled shadow government and pro-democracy protesters. “If we want to be free, we must fight for ourselves,” Zarni says.
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