More international sanctions on Myanmar’s junta, as airstrikes, arrests keep country on edge

The European Union has now imposed its sixth round of sanctions on at least 16 individuals and entities for carrying out grave human rights violation in Myanmar

February 24, 2023 by Peoples Dispatch
Myanmar junta airstrikes, sanctions
(Photo: via Irrawaddy)

The European Union on February 20, announced a sixth round of sanctions on at least 9 individuals and 7 entities in military-ruled Myanmar. The sanctions entail travel bans and freezing of assets of influential businessmen and high ranking military officers, including armed forces chief-of-staff General Maung Aye and navy chief Admiral Moe Aung. Names of politicians and administrators in Yangon, like Energy Minister Myo Myint Oo, have also been included.

According to the EU, some of the targeted individuals were “involved in the process of death sentences and execution of four democracy activists in July 2022, and in Kachin State, where they oversaw air strikes, massacres, raids, arson and the use of human shields committed by the military operations.”

The EU said in its statement: “The EU condemns in the strongest possible terms the grave human rights violations…The EU reiterates its call for increased international preventive action, including an arms embargo in order to cease the sale and transfer of arms and equipment, as they facilitate the military’s atrocities.
All hostilities must stop immediately. The military authorities must fully respect international humanitarian law, and put an end to the indiscriminate use of force.”

The announcement comes a month after Justice for Myanmar reported the interconnections between foreign countries, intergovernmental organizations, and companies to aid the junta forces structurally in acquiring resources, funds, and power.

Escalation in violence and arrests

Meanwhile, the conflict in Myanmar is only intensifying. On February 20, the junta carried out a latest airstrike in Kawkareik Township. According to a report in Mizzima, the military government carried out 57 airstrikes last month and that since the coup in February 2021, they have carried out 652 airstrikes in different parts of Myanmar. Over 288 individuals, mostly civilians, have died and over 377 have been severely injured as a result of these strikes. The number of asymmetrical drone strikes also tripled in 2022

The junta has heavily relied on oppressive tactics such as mass arrests, torture, and intimidation to silence dissenting anti-coup groups. On February 12, a 15-page document was leaked to the media which revealed that the military would now allow “loyal citizens to the state” to apply for licenses to carry weapons. Such a decision to allow weaponry to selected civilians—especially to public servants and retired military personnel—has created palpable fear of an escalation of violence. 

Civilian toll

According to the Assistance Association of Political Prisoners (AAPP), over 3,000 people were killed in indiscriminate military firing amid the series of mass protests that spread across the country in 2021. Thousands have been forced to flee their villages due to the continuous fighting. The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs estimates that 1.5 million are currently internally displaced in Myanmar. Data For Myanmar, an independent research group, puts the figures of damaged houses as high as 38,383 across 12 States and regions between May 2021 and November 2022. At least 13,000 continue to languish in different prisons, as estimated by AAPP, and 100 have been sentenced to death.

While condemning the grave reports of human rights violations under military rule, the EU reiterated the call for increased international preventive action and emphasis on Asean’s recommendations to de-escalate the situation and find a lasting solution: “Those responsible for the coup, as well as the perpetrators of violence and gross human rights violations, should be held accountable.”

Meanwhile, at least 40 Rohingya from Rakhine attempting to escape to Thailand from Mon State were intercepted by military personnel in Myanmar earlier this week. The overall number of Rohingya arrested in recent months remains undocumented.