Myanmar junta uses force on streets; US, UK target finances

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CORRECTS DATE - Anti-coup protesters shout slogans during a rally in Yangon, Myanmar on Thursday March 25, 2021. Protesters against last months military takeover in Myanmar returned to the streets in large numbers Thursday, a day after staging a silence strike in which people were urged to stay home and businesses to close for the day. (AP Photo)

YANGON – As Myanmar's junta used violence again Thursday to try to suppress protests against the military's takeover, the United States and Britain announced tough sanctions against two holding companies that provide financial sustenance for the army regime.

The U.S. Treasury Department said its action against Myanma Economic Holdings Public Company Limited and Myanmar Economic Corporation Limited targeted the army’s control of large parts of the country’s economy, “which is a vital financial lifeline for the military junta.”

The sanctions against the two companies and their holdings blocks access to any property they control in the United States and effectively bars any U.S. person or company from conducting any sort of business with them, including supplying them with funds or providing goods or services. The department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control can make exceptions for companies it licenses.

“These sanctions specifically target the economic resources of Burma’s military regime, which is responsible for the overthrow of Burma’s democratically elected government and the ongoing repression of the Burmese people,” the announcement from Washington said. “These sanctions are not directed at the people of Burma.” Burma is another name for Myanmar.

Britain's action only targets Myanma Economic Holdings Public Company Limited. “Today’s sanctions target the military’s financial interests to help drain the sources of finance for their campaigns of repression against civilians,” Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said.

The U.S. and Britain had already issued sanctions personally targeting the military leaders who staged the Feb. 1 coup. Opponents of the coup, inside and outside Myanmar, had been lobbying strongly to target the holding companies as well.

Inside Myanmar, protesters returned to the streets in large numbers, a day after people engaged in a “silence strike” by staying home and closing businesses for the day.

Security forces sought to break up some of the protests by force. Social media accounts and local news outlets reported violent attacks on demonstrators in Hpa-an, the capital of the southeastern Karen state, as well as the eastern Shan state’s capital of Taunggyi and Mon state’s capital of Mawlamyine, also in the southeast. It was not clear if soldiers used live ammunition in addition to firing rubber bullets at the demonstrators.