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US, UK, Canada slap sanctions on Myanmar chief justice, 6 others

The United States has issued fresh sanctions against people and entities linked to Myanmar’s military that seized control of the government a year ago, with President Joe Biden warning “further costs” will be imposed as long as the junta doesn’t hold elections, report news agencies.

Seven people including Myanmar government officials and businessmen as well as a private logistics company and an army-run procurement agency were targeted. The sanctions were levied in coordination with the UK and Canada.

The US Department of the Treasury took action against Attorney General Thida Oo, Supreme Court Chief Justice Tun Tun Oo and Anti-Corruption Commission Chairman U Tin Oo, whom it said were closely involved in the “politically motivated” prosecution of ousted elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

“We are coordinating these actions with the United Kingdom and Canada to demonstrate the international community’s strong support for the people of Burma and to further promote accountability for the coup and the violence perpetrated by the regime,” US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement.

“The United States will continue to work with our international partners to address human rights abuses and press the regime to cease the violence, release all those unjustly detained, allow unhindered humanitarian access, and restore Burma’s path to democracy,” Blinken said.

US President Joe Biden said the coup has caused immense suffering across Burma and undermined regional stability, while the leaders of the regime and their supporters seek to profit off the chaos they created. “As long as the regime continues to deny the people of Burma their democratic vote, we will continue to impose further costs on the military and its supporters.”

Coup leader-turned-premier Min Aung Hlaing had pledged to hold elections in August next year, defying pressure from the US and Myanmar’s immediate neighbours to carry out polls much earlier.

The junta leader addressed the nation on Tuesday and defended the need for the, saying there were 11.3 million votes cast fraudulently in the 2020 elections that civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi and her party won by a landslide. The Election Commission previously said the polls were free and fair.

“Action is being taken against those who made the election ugly. We are now striving for a free and fair election as promised,” Min Aung Hlaing said in the broadcast as he listed out the achievements of the military government’s year in power. “Only when the situation is stable and safe, the election can be held.”

Myanmar’s generals have doubled down to suppress armed resistance from ethnic militias and pro-democracy forces since the coup. Min Aung Hlaing described the conflict in his speech as “attacks by terrorists”. He said 525 roads, 27 hospitals and 504 schools were destroyed and the military had captured over 4,300 people for acts of terrorism.

The conflict together with a widespread disobedience movement has weakened the economy with foreign investors exiting Myanmar for fear of sanctions. Rising food prices and joblessness is expected to leave nearly half the country’s 55 million population living below the national poverty line by early 2022.

Min Aung Hlaing said domestic production will be encouraged to keep the country afloat, particularly steel and cement factories. He asked Myanmar citizens to use fuel sparingly given the high import bills, saying the government was working to ensure oil security.

The military government extended the state of emergency until July 31 to prioritise state stability and peacebuilding, the National Defence and Security Council said on Monday. Some 1,500 protesters have been killed since the military takeover, and Suu Kyi is facing six years in prison with more court verdicts to come including those on election fraud.