Myanmar coup: British MPs decry military’s actions and call for sanctions

By James Moules

MYANMAR’S military must be subject to sanctions following last week’s coup of Aung San Suu Kyi’s elected government, British opposition MPs have urged.

On February 1 the military of Myanmar (also known as Burma) seized control of the country’s government and arrested numerous officials including the nation’s leader Suu Kyi.

They also declared the results of the November 2020 election to be void, in which Suu Kyi’s party had emerged victorious.

Speaking before the House of Commons on February 3, Labour’s Stephen Kinnock, Shadow Minister for Asia and the Pacific said: “For decades, the power hungry Myanmar military has oppressed and persecuted the Burmese people, committing countless atrocities – most notably against the Rohingya, for which it currently stands accused of genocide in the International Court of Justice.”

“The UK and the wider international community must act swiftly and effectively to prove the military wrong on this. The UK Government must move from warm words of condemnation to tangible action.

“As the penholder on Myanmar at the Security Council, the UK has a particular and unique responsibility to lead the international response. We welcome the Security Council session the Government have convened today, but we believe there are further steps that must be taken.”

Kinnock called on the UK government to impose sanctions on the Myanmar military, expand an international arms embargo on the country and back the ICJ’s genocide case.

The call to consider further sanctions was also voiced by Shadow Foreign Secretary Lisa Nandy on the day of the coup.

In response to Kinnock, Nigel Adams, Minister of State for Asia, said: “I politely point out to him that we have already imposed sanctions on 16 individuals responsible for human rights violations in Myanmar, including six individuals named by the UN fact-finding mission report. However, of course we will work closely with our international partners to consider next steps in that regard and we will constantly consider all the tools at our disposal.”

On the subject of an arms embargo, he added: “We are a long-standing supporter of an arms embargo in Myanmar. We worked with EU partners to secure and tighten a strong EU arms embargo following the 2017 Rohingya crisis.

“Since we left the EU, we have transitioned this into domestic law. Our autonomous sanctions regulations prohibit the provision of military-related services, including the provision of technical assistance, to or for the benefit of the Tatmadaw.”

Labour MPs were joined by world leaders including Joe Biden, who said the “reversal of the progress” towards democracy warranted a review of sanction.

The army, which ruled as a junta from 1962 to 2011, has blocked WhatsApp and Facebook in a bid to quell growing civil disobedience.

Originally in a power-sharing agreement with the elected government, they decried last November’s election – in which Suu Kyi won a landslide – as fraudulent.

Suu Kyi has now been remanded in custody until February 15.

Myanmar’s Embassy in the UK was contacted for comment.

Featured Image: Richard Townshend/Official Portrait

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