EU targets 19 more Myanmar officials with sanctions

BRUSSELS (AP) — The European Union on Tuesday imposed sanctions on several senior officials and armed forces officers in Myanmar, where a military takeover last year set off violence that threatens to destabilize other parts of Southeast Asia.

The EU froze the assets of 19 people – including Investment and Foreign Economic Relations Minister Kan Zaw and the chief justice at Myanmar’s supreme court, top military brass and businesspeople linked to the armed forces – and banned them from traveling in Europe.

The 27-nation bloc also froze the assets in Europe of Myanmar’s State Administration Council. EU headquarters said in a statement that the SAC, set up in February 2021 following a military coup, “is responsible for policies and activities that undermine democracy and the rule of law.”

Myanmar languished under strict military rule for five decades, leading to international isolation and sanctions. As the generals loosened their grip, Aung San Suu Kyi became leader in 2015 elections and the international community eased most sanctions and ramped up investment.

But that ended on Feb. 1, 2021, when the armed forces launched a coup after contesting the results of the November 2020 elections, which were won overwhelmingly by Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy party.

The takeover was met with massive public opposition, which has since turned into armed resistance.

“The EU is deeply concerned by the continuing escalation of violence and the evolution towards a protracted conflict which has spread across the country and has regional implications,” the statement said.

The EU vowed “to strive to bring to justice all those responsible for the human rights violations, war crimes and crimes against humanity” committed since the coup.

The new sanctions mean that a total of 84 people and 11 “entities” like agencies, companies or organizations are now targeted by the EU. The bloc also has an arms embargo in place, as well as a ban on equipment that can be used for internal repression or for monitoring communications.