Demonstrations in Myanmar after a military coup overthrew the elected government continued over the weekend while the junta’s crackdown escalated even further culminating in the country’s deadliest day of demonstrations with 18 people reportedly dead, which has drawn even more condemnation and reproach from the international community.
The United States warned Myanmar’s military rulers on Monday that it would take more action if the country’s security forces continue to kill unarmed people and attack journalists and activists.
“If the Burmese (Myanmar) military continues down this path, if the Burmese military refuses to restore the democratically elected government and to cease this abhorrent violence against peaceful demonstrators, there will be additional measures forthcoming from the United States,” State Department spokesperson Ned Price said at a news briefing.
A White House official said on Sunday the United States was preparing additional sanctions against those responsible for the latest outbreak of violence.
U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield said on Monday she hopes to use Washington’s presidency of the United Nations Security Council in March to push for more “intense discussions” on Myanmar, reported Reuters.
Myanmar’s elected civilian government was ousted on Feb. 1 in a military coup. Myanmar’s U.N. Ambassador Kyaw Moe Tun appealed to the United Nations on Friday “to use any means necessary to take action against the Myanmar military” to restore democracy to the Southeast Asian country.
“I hope to use our time as president of the council to push for more intense discussions,” Thomas-Greenfield told reporters, adding that she planned to have a Security Council discussion on Myanmar “sooner rather than later.”
The Security Council voiced concern, in a statement last month, over a state of emergency imposed by the Myanmar military for one year, but stopped short of condemning the coup due to opposition by Russia and China.
Police in Myanmar have dispersed protests against the coup with tear gas, stun grenades and rubber bullets. On Sunday, troops and police fired live rounds at demonstrators in cities across Myanmar, killing at least 18 people, according to the United Nations human rights office.
Thomas-Greenfield said Washington was ready to use its renewed engagement at the United Nations and internationally “to press the military to reverse its actions and restore a democratically elected government.”
“But the violence we’re seeing happening now does not indicate that they’re ready to make what I would consider an easy decision for them to make,” she said. “So we do have to ramp up the pressure.”
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has pledged to mobilize global pressure “to make sure that this coup fails.”
The United Nations does not officially recognize the junta as Myanmar’s new government as it has received no official notification of any change in government or U.N. representation.
“We have not received any communication concerning changes in the representation of Myanmar here at the U.N. in New York,” U.N. spokesperson Stephane Dujarric said on Monday. “And nor have our colleagues in protocol received any information from the Permanent Mission in Myanmar on any changes in the government.”
Italian Foreign Ministry on the other hand said on Monday it had summoned Myanmar’s ambassador to demand an end to the deadly crackdown on protests in the Southeast Asian nation, reported Agence France-Presse (AFP).
Ambassador Hmway Hmway Khyne “was summoned today … to request that the military authorities immediately put an end to all violent repression of the democratic protests underway in the country,” a statement said.
Italy repeated its condemnation of Myanmar’s military coup last month and requested the immediate release of ousted civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi and all those arrested in connection with the coup.
“The ministry also emphasized the illegitimacy of the military’s decision to cancel the November elections,” the statement added.
Meanwhile, Myanmar’s Southeast Asian neighbors were also due to hold talks with its ruling military on Tuesday in an effort to quell deadly violence and open a channel to resolve its escalating political crisis, reported Reuters.
Singapore Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan said his counterparts in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) would be frank when they meet by video call on Tuesday and will tell a representative of Myanmar’s military they are appalled by the violence.
In a television interview late on Monday, Balakrishnan said ASEAN would encourage dialogue between Suu Kyi and the junta.
“They need to talk, and we need to help bring them together,” he said.
ASEAN group includes Myanmar, Singapore, the Philippines, Indonesia, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Malaysia, Brunei and Vietnam.
ASEAN’s effort to engage with Myanmar’s military has been criticized by supporters of democracy, with a committee of ousted Myanmar lawmakers declaring the junta a “terrorist” group and saying ASEAN’s engagement will give it legitimacy.
Sa Sa, the committee’s anointed envoy to the United Nations, said ASEAN should have no dealings with “this illegitimate military-led regime.”
The alumni of ASEAN youth programs in Myanmar said the bloc should be talking to the international representatives of Suu Kyi’s administration, not to the regime.
“ASEAN must understand that the coup or the re-election promised by the military junta is utterly unacceptable to the people of Myanmar,” it said in a letter to ASEAN.
Philippine Foreign Minister Teodoro Locsin indicated on Twitter that ASEAN would be firm with Myanmar and said the bloc’s policy of non-interference in members’ internal affairs “is not a blanket approval or tacit consent for wrong to be done there.”
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