Western countries increase pressure on Myanmar junta as protests grow

(REUTERS): The European Union is poised to impose sanctions on Myanmar while the United States penalised two more generals for links to the military coup, as Western countries increased pressure on junta to avoid a violent crackdown.

More protests are planned today (Tuesday) and overnight EU governments showed support for pro-democracy activists seeking the reversal of the military coup and the release of elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

The European Union announced that it was ready to adopt restrictive measures targeting those directly responsible for the military coup. However, the bloc ruled out any curtailing of its trade preferences for the country to avoid hurting poor workers.

Meanwhile, the US Treasury Department placed two high-ranking members of Myanmar’s military under sanctions for their role in the coup. Lieutenant General Moe Myint Tun and General Maung Maung Kyaw were added to the Treasury’s blacklist, which freezes their US assets and bars US citizens from doing business with them.

“The military must reverse its actions and urgently restore the democratically elected government in Burma, or the Treasury Department will not hesitate to take further action,” the department said in a statement.

Myanmar’s security forces have shown more restraint since the coup than in earlier confrontations with Suu Kyi supporters. Even so, three protesters have been killed – two shot dead in Mandalay on Saturday, and a woman who died on Friday after being shot.

The army seized power after alleging fraud in Nov. 8 elections in which Suu Kyi’s party trounced a pro-military party, detaining her and much of the party leadership. The electoral commission dismissed the fraud complaints.