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4th Mar 2021

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EU to impose targeted sanctions on Myanmar junta

  • Teachers protest against the coup in Hpa-An, the capital city of Kayin State, in southern Myanmar, on 9 February (Photo: Ninjastrikers)

EU countries have asked the foreign service to draft a blacklist of Myanmar coup leaders in reaction to escalating violence.

"In response to the military coup, the European Union stands ready to adopt restrictive measures targeting those directly responsible," EU foreign ministers plan to say after meeting on Monday (22 February), according to draft conclusions agreed by their ambassadors in Brussels on Wednesday.

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"The Council invites the high representative [EU foreign relations chief] and the European Commission to develop appropriate proposals in this regard," the draft statement, seen by EUobserver, said.

Assuming the EU foreign ministers give the political nod on Monday, the new sanctions could enter into life a few weeks later.

The EU is Myanmar's third biggest trade partner.

But the measures are unlikely to touch trade, after EU states also agreed: "The European Union will seek to avoid measures which could adversely affect the people of Myanmar/Burma, especially the most vulnerable".

The visa-bans and asset-freezes on the new junta, which seized power on 1 February, would come on top of existing EU measures, which were imposed due to the previous government's persecution of the Rohingya minority.

The existing measures covered 14 officials and an arms export ban.

Meanwhile, the EU is also keen to mediate a peaceful solution in Myanmar, even though the Asian state lies in China's sphere of influence.

"The European Union stands ready to support dialogue with all key stakeholders who wish to resolve the situation in good faith, with a view to facilitating a swift reinstatement of power to the legitimate democratic institutions," the draft conclusions said.

Monday's statement will reiterate the EU's political position.

"The European Union stands with the people of Myanmar/Burma," the draft said.

"The European Union calls for de-escalation of the current crisis through an immediate end to the state of emergency, the restoration of the legitimate civilian government, and the opening of the newly elected parliament," it added.

"The military must renounce its action," it said.

It called for the release of democratically elected leaders, including Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, a disgraced former Nobel peace-prize laureate.

It also called on the junta to free ordinary people snatched off the streets in recent protests and to allow normal internet and media access.

People had a "fundamental right to peaceful assembly", the draft EU statement said.

"The EU condemns military and police repression against peaceful demonstrators, while calling for maximum restraint to be exercised by the authorities and for all sides to refrain from violence," it added.

EU arms embargo under threat from Myanmar sale

The EU arms embargo on Myanmar could be undermined by the planned sale of an Indian attack helicopter – armed with components from EU companies - to the military regime in Rangoon, according to NGOs Amnesty International and Saferworld.

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Myanmar: the EU needs to play the ASEAN card

The military coup seems to have inflamed and united a diverse and ostensibly depoliticised society. There seems to be an across the board rejection by the people of Myanmar of a return to military dictatorship.

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