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Myanmar activists find new ways to protest as EU approves sanctions on junta

Myanmar activists find new ways to protest as EU approves sanctions on junta

A senior UN expert has warned that Myanmar's military is likely committing "crimes against humanity" as it tries to stop the protests. (Photo: AFP)

YANGON: Protesters honked car horns in Myanmar on Monday (Mar 22) and planted posters in an empty square to avoid arrest, injury or death as the European Union approved sanctions on 11 people linked to last month's coup and subsequent crackdown

At least 250 people have been killed so far in anti-junta protests which the security forces are trying to stamp out, according to figures from the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners activist group.

"The number of murders has reached an unbearable extent, which is why we will not be able to avoid imposing sanctions," German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas told reporters as he arrived in Brussels for a meeting with his EU counterparts.

Maas later said the "excesses of violence" in Myanmar was "absolutely unacceptable".  

The EU placed Myanmar junta chief Min Aung Hlaing on an assets freeze and visa ban blacklist.

Min Aung Hlaing is "responsible for undermining democracy and the rule of law in Myanmar", the bloc's official journal said.

The bloc also hit nine other senior military officers and the head of Myanmar's election commission with sanctions in the form of travel bans and asset freezes.

READ: Myanmar protesters voice defiance as junta reminds of 'external threats'

Anti-coup protesters hold red balloons, calling for foreign intervention to aid them in downtown Yangon, Myanmar on Mar 22, 2021. (Photo: AP) Anti-coup protesters hold red balloon, calling for foreign intervention to aid them in downtown Yangon, Myanmar, Monday, March 22, 2021. Protests against the coup continued in cities and town across the country, including Mandalay and Yangon. (AP Photo)

According to diplomats and two internal documents seen by Reuters last week, the EU is also planning to target companies "generating revenue for, or providing financial support to, the Myanmar Armed Forces".

"We don't intend to punish the people of Myanmar but those who blatantly violate human rights," Maas said.

A spokesman for the junta did not respond to calls seeking comment. He has previously said security forces have used force only when necessary.

The Southeast Asian nation has been locked in crisis since the elected government led by Nobel peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi was overthrown by the military on Feb 1.

The violence has forced many citizens to think up novel ways to express their rejection of a return to army rule.

CAR HORNS, SHOTS

In downtown areas of the commercial capital Yangon, motorists honked car horns in response to a call on social media to mark the one-month anniversary of the launch of one of the biggest demonstrations since the coup.

In the western town of Mindat in Chin state, protesters planted scores of posters in a square in front of the main market saying "Military dictatorship must fail".

READ: Myanmar military's use of lethal force 'disastrous', but sense can still prevail: PM Lee

Anti-coup protesters flash three-fingered gesture, a symbol of resistance, during a rally outside their homes in downtown Yangon, Myanmar, on Mar 22, 2021. (Photo: AP)

In the latest violence, one person was killed in the country's second city of Mandalay, aid workers and news reports said.

Four people were killed and several wounded in the city on Sunday when security forces opened fire after residents tried to resist efforts by the military to set up a base in a school, the Myanmar Now news portal reported.

One man was shot dead and several were wounded when police opened fire on a group setting up a barricade in the central town of Monywa, a doctor there said on Sunday as a community group issued a call on Facebook for blood donors.

"Sniper, sniper," people can be heard shouting in a video clip shortly after the man was shot in the head in Monywa and more shots rang out.

State media said on Sunday that men on motorcycles attacked a member of the security forces who later died. The military said two policemen were killed in earlier protests.

SOUTHEAST ASIAN DIPLOMATIC PUSH

The junta says a Nov 8 election won by Aung San Suu Kyi's party was fraudulent, an accusation rejected by the electoral commission. Military leaders have promised a new election but have not set a date.

Asian neighbours, who have for years avoided criticising each other, have begun speaking out.

Singapore Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan visited Brunei Darussalam on Monday before going to Malaysia and Indonesia, which are seeking an urgent meeting of Southeast Asia's ASEAN regional grouping, of which Myanmar is a member.

READ: 2 journalists detained as Myanmar junta clamps down on press

Myanmar has been shaken by massive protests against the February coup that toppled Aung San Suu Kyi's government. (Photo: AFP)

Heng Swee Keat, deputy prime minister of Singapore, said his country was "appalled by the violent crackdowns against civilians" and called for a return to the democratic transition.

Singapore, which has deep economic ties with Myanmar, has previously called the military action a "national shame".

The BBC said on Monday that one of its reporters in Myanmar who was detained by plainclothes men three days ago had been freed. Aung Thura, from the BBC's Burmese service, was detained on Friday along with a journalist who works for the domestic Mizzima news service.

There was no immediate word on the whereabouts of the Mizzima reporter.

READ: Myanmar's UN ambassador vows to continue fighting after junta fires him

The military has unleashed a crackdown against anti-coup protesters. (Photo: AFP)

Australian media reported that two Australian business consultants were detained as they tried to leave Myanmar, but it was not clear why. An Australian foreign ministry spokesperson said it was providing consular assistance but declined to comment further for privacy reasons.

Sean Turnell, an Australian economic adviser to deposed leader Aung San Suu Kyi, was detained last month. The army has not announced any charges against Turnell, who is among nearly 2,000 people the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners says have been detained since the coup.

"Every day I imagine the moment my phone rings and you are at the other end of the line, telling me you are your way home," Turnell's wife Ha Vu wrote on her Facebook page on Monday. "I pray for that day to be soon. In the meantime, I irrevocably believe that you are still treated well, with dignity and respect." 

Source: AGENCIES/zl

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