Suu Kyi supporters seek tougher action after US sanctions Myanmar junta

Military continues arrests while announcing release of more than 23,000 convicts


Supporters of ousted Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi called for tougher international action against the new junta on Friday after Washington announced sanctions after six days of pro-democracy demonstrations.

Security forces carried out another series of arrests overnight, with those detained including at least one doctor who had taken part in an escalating civil disobedience campaign. In some places, people rallied to prevent those arrested being taken away.

As Washington announced a first round of sanctions, EU legislators called for action from their countries and Britain said it was considering measures to punish the February 1 coup that ousted Ms Suu Kyi's government.

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We may need more punishment and action against Myanmar's acting president and generals

Supporters of her National League for Democracy welcomed the US sanctions but said tougher action was needed to push the military out of power and force it to recognise the NLD's landslide victory in November elections.

"We are hoping for more actions than this because we are suffering every day and night of the military coup here in Myanmar, " said Suu Kyi supporter Moe Thal, 29.

"We want to finish this as soon as possible. We may need more punishment and action against Myanmar's acting president and generals."

The coup and the detention of Ms Suu Kyi, along with more than 260 others, prompted the biggest demonstrations since a 2007 Saffron Revolution that ultimately became a step towards democratic change.

The junta remitted the sentences of more than 23,000 prisoners on Friday, saying the move was consistent with "establishing a new democratic state with peace, development and discipline" and would "please the public".

Coup leader and army chief Min Aung Hlaing called on civil servants to return to work and urged people to stop mass gatherings to avoid spreading the coronavirus – addressing the protests for the first time on Thursday.

Facebook said it would significantly reduce the distribution of content from profiles and pages run by the military.

The company said it was curbing the reach of the military's information team and spokesman Brig Gen Zaw Min Tun. "This same action will be applied to any additional pages that the military controls that repeatedly violate our misinformation policies," Facebook said.

Among protests across the country on Thursday, hundreds of workers lined a road in the capital Naypyidaw, chanting anti-junta slogans and carrying placards supporting Ms Suu Kyi. Thousands demonstrated in the main city of Yangon while these Buddhist monks joined protests in Mandalay.

Hundreds of protesters demonstrated outside the Chinese embassy, accusing Beijing of supporting the military junta, despite Chinese denials.

The military launched the coup after what it said was widespread fraud in the November 8 election. The electoral commission said there was no evidence of fraud.

Ms Suu Kyi, who was swept to power in 2015, faces charges of illegally importing six walkie-talkie radios.

The US sanctions target 10 current and former military officials deemed responsible for the coup, including Min Aung Hlaing. It also blacklisted three gem and jade companies it said were owned or controlled by the military.

The sanctions prevent the named individuals from doing business in America, although the military leadership is not known to have major US interests. Washington is also taking steps to prevent the generals from having access to $1 billion in Myanmar government funds held in the US.

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said Washington was "prepared to take additional action should Burma's military not change course".

Min Aung Hlaing and other generals are already under US sanctions over abuses against Rohingya Muslims and other minorities.

The UN Human Rights Council is scheduled to discuss Myanmar at a special session on Friday.

The protests revived memories of almost half a century of direct army rule, punctuated by bloody crackdowns, until the military began relinquishing some power in 2011.

Ms Suu Kyi, 75, won the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize for campaigning for democracy and remains hugely popular at home despite damage to her international reputation over the plight of the Rohingya.

She spent nearly 15 years under house arrest under previous juntas. Her lawyer said he has not been allowed to see her.

The ruling generals promised to stick to the 2008 constitution and hand over power after elections, but doubts over the army's plans for the constitution were raised by announcements in state media on Friday.

They listed one of Myanmar's objectives as "to work for the emergence of a constitution that is in alignment and harmony with the Democratic Federal Union". No date has been set for elections.