Myanmar protest deaths reach 320 as US and UK impose sanctions

Myanmar protesters still go out regardless of killings
Anti-coup protesters with makeshift shields stand during a rally in Yangon, Myanmar, Wednesday, March 3, 2021. Demonstrators in Myanmar took to the streets again on Wednesday to protest last month's seizure of power by the military. (AP Photo)

The toll of protesters confirmed killed in Myanmar since last month’s military takeover has reached 320, a group that verifies details of deaths and arrests has announced.

Myanmar’s Assistance Association for Political Prisoners said its tally includes only documented cases, with the actual number likely to be “much higher.

It said 11 people were killed on Thursday, when it also managed to verify 23 deaths that had occurred previously.

Myanmar news agencies, including the Democratic Voice of Burma and Mizzima, reported that three more people had been shot dead by security forces in the city of Myeik in southern Myanmar.

Social media posts, many including photos of bodies, indicated that as many as seven people may have been killed in various cities by nightfall on Friday.

The Assistance Association described a typical deadly confrontation on Thursday in Taunggyi, in Shan state in eastern Myanmar, when “the junta used live ammunition, trying to create a combat zone of residential areas, resulting in four civilians shot and killed, one dead body was dragged away, some other civilians were injured”.

“Moreover, junta forces raided houses and violently arrested youths and civilians, thereafter destroying motorcycles, cars and barricades. They stormed streets unprovoked, shouted obscenities and vandalized property.”

The association said that by Thursday, 2,981 people had been arrested, charged or sentenced in the crackdown since the February 1 coup that ousted the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi. Most, including Ms Suu Kyi and President Win Myint, remain detained.

State television MRTV reported that 322 detainees were released on Friday from Insein Prison, describing them as being accused of breaking a public order law by having “demonstrated violently”. On Wednesday, more than 600 others were freed from the same prison, also without being formally charged by a court.

The army’s seizure of power halted the south-east Asian nation’s move towards democracy that began when Ms Suu Kyi’s party took office in 2016 for its first term, after more than five decades of military rule.

The movement against the junta and its takeover received a major boost on Thursday when the US and the UK announced tough sanctions against two military-owned conglomerates with vast holdings in many sectors.

The US Treasury Department said its action against Myanma Economic Holdings Public Company and Myanmar Economic Corporation targets the army’s control of large parts of the country’s economy, “which is a vital financial lifeline for the military junta”.

The sanctions against the two companies and their holdings block access to any property they control in the US and effectively bars any American or company from conducting any sort of business with them, including supplying them with funds or providing goods or services.

UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said the sanctions “target the military’s financial interests to help drain the sources of finance for their campaigns of repression against civilians”.

He added that the UK and its allies “will not hesitate to take action against a regime that has caused so much pain to so many innocent civilians”.

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