21st Apr 2021

EU threatens more sanctions after Myanmar 'day of horror'

  • EU and US united in condemnation, but Russia and China unwilling to act (Photo:

The EU has threatened further sanctions against the Myanmar junta after slayings of women and children, but Russia pledged allegiance to one of its top arms buyers.

"The Myanmar military has made yesterday a day of horror and of shame," EU foreign elations chief Josep Borrell said on Sunday (28 March).

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"We will continue to use the EU's mechanisms, including sanctions, to target the perpetrators of this violence," he added, after soldiers shot dead 114 people at a funeral of one pro-democracy protester on Saturday.

The UK, the US, and UN officials reacted with similar statements.

"Today's killing of unarmed civilians, including children, marks a new low," UK foreign secretary Dominic Raab said.

"It's terrible. It's absolutely outrageous ... totally unnecessary," US president Joe Biden said.

Military chiefs of 11 nations, including EU states Germany, Greece, Italy, Denmark, and the Netherlands, as well as the UK and US, also spoke out, in an unusual move, urging the junta to "cease violence and work to continue to restore respect and credibility with the people of Myanmar".

"An 11-year old boy, an 11-year old girl, two 13-year old boys, a 13-year old girl, three 16-year old boys and two 17-year old boys, [were] all reportedly shot and killed," Henrietta Fore, the head of the UN children's agency Unicef, said.

"Today the junta of Myanmar has made 'Armed Forces Day' a day of infamy with the massacre of men, women, and very young children," Tom Andrews, a UN expert on Myanmar, noted.

"Words of condemnation or concern are frankly ringing hollow ... It is past time for robust, coordinated action," he said.

UN officials also told the AP news agency the Security Council was likely to hold talks on the crisis in the coming days.

But there is little the outside world can do, short of imposing a symbolic arms embargo or economic restrictions.

And even that was in doubt, given Russia's decision to embrace the Myanmar military, to whom it supplied some 16 percent of its weapons in the 2014 to 2019 period, according to Swedish think-tank, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.

Russia, which holds a veto on UN action, sent its deputy defence minister, Alexander Fomin, to Myanmar this weekend, where he shook hands with the junta leader, general Min Aung Hlaing, and received a ceremonial sword and medal in an event broadcast on Russian TV.

"You, distinguished senior general, took part in our parade last year, our parade commemorating the 75th anniversary of victory in the Great Patriotic War [WW2]. And this visit of ours - it's a response to yours," Fomin said.

China, another major Myanmar arms supplier and UN veto-holder, stayed silent over the weekend.

The EU, last week, imposed sanctions on 11 junta members, including Aung Hlaing, and threatened "additional restrictive measures against economic entities owned or controlled by the military".

But "UN Security Council member states' continued refusal to meaningfully act against this never-ending horror is contemptible," Ming Yu Hah, a spokesman for international rights group Amnesty International, said.

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