US to stop trading with Myanmar until return of democratic government – The Guardian

Washington has announced the immediate suspension of all US trade engagement with Myanmar until the return of a democratically elected government, a day after the president, Joe Biden, condemned the killing of peaceful protesters as “outrageous”.

The move comes as the US and EU led international condemnation of the violence perpetrated by the junta in Myanmar on Saturday, when more than 100 people – including several children – died in the bloodiest day since the military coup two months ago.

Announcing the suspension of all US engagement with Myanmar under the 2013 Trade and Investment Framework Agreement, the US trade representative, Katherine Tai, said in a statement that Myanmar security forces’ killing of peaceful protesters, students, workers and labour leaders and children had “shocked the conscience of the international community”.

At least 107 people were killed, the United Nations said, as the regime staged a show of might for Armed Forces Day – an annual parade showcasing Myanmar’s military prowess.

Britain has called for an emergency UN security council meeting on the situation in Myanmar, where scores of anti-coup protesters were killed over the weekend, diplomatic sources said on Monday.

The 15 security council members will begin the session behind closed doors on Wednesday with a briefing on the situation by the UN’s special envoy on Myanmar, Christine Schraner Burgener.

The UN security council had previously condemned the violence and called for a restoration of democracy, but has not yet considered possible sanctions against the military, which would require the support of or an abstention by Myanmar’s neighbour and friend, China.

“Violence and bloody clashes do not meet the interests of any party. The victims are the Myanmar people,” the Chinese foreign ministry spokesman, Zhao Lijian, said. Observers say it is unlikely condemnation will translate into action at the security council after weeks spent by Beijing pushing for dialogue and national solution.

Russia, another ally, issued a lukewarm defence on Monday of a visit by its deputy defence minister, Alexander Fomin, to attend a lavish outdoor dinner marking armed forces day.

The Kremlin spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said that despite Russia’s “longstanding and fairly constructive ties with Myanmar … that absolutely does not signify our approval of those tragic events which are taking place in the country”.

The latest diplomatic moves came as a series of airstrikes by Myanmar’s military along the country’s border raised fears that more villagers may flee to neighbouring Thailand in large numbers.

The strikes in areas populated predominantly by ethnic Karen people represent another escalation in the increasingly violent crackdown by the junta since its coup on 1 February. On Saturday, more than 100 people were killed in and around demonstrations throughout the country – the bloodiest single day since the takeover.

International condemnation has been mounting as soldiers and police have killed hundreds in brutal suppression against weeks of mass protests demanding a restoration of democracy and the release of the detained civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

“A professional military follows international standards for conduct and is responsible for protecting – not harming – the people it serves,” said a rare joint statement by the defence chiefs of the US, Britain, Japan and nine other countries.

The UN special rapporteur for Myanmar, Tom Andrews, said the army was carrying out “mass murder” and called on the world to isolate the junta and block its access to weapons.

Foreign criticism and sanctions imposed by some western countries have failed to sway the generals.

The death toll from crackdowns since the coup has climbed to at least 459, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP) monitoring group.

AAPP said a further 13 people were killed on Sunday, as funerals were held for some of the victims, after the deadliest day of violence in the eight weeks since the coup.

In Mandalay, the country’s cultural capital, the family of Aye Ko mourned at a funeral service after he was killed overnight.

“I am very saddened to lose my husband – together with my children I’m heartbroken,” his wife, Ma Khaing, told AFP as she grieved with her four children.

On Monday, the British foreign ministry advised its nationals in Myanmar to leave as soon as possible, following “a significant increase in the level of recent violence”.

Despite the dangers, protesters hit the streets again on Sunday in parts of commercial hub Yangon and several other cities around Myanmar.

Funeral held for 13-year-old boy shot by military in Myanmar – video
Funeral held for 13-year-old boy shot by military in Myanmar – video

“The shameful, cowardly, brutal actions of the military and police – who have been filmed shooting at protesters as they flee, and who have not even spared young children – must be halted immediately,” the United Nations envoys Alice Wairimu Nderitu and Michelle Bachelet said in a joint statement.

The military-run broadcaster Myawaddy TV gave Saturday’s death toll as 45 and said the crackdown was necessary because protesters had used guns and bombs against security forces.

At Saturday’s grand parade of troops and military vehicles in the capital, Naypyidaw, the junta leader, Gen Min Aung Hlaing, defended the coup and pledged to yield power after new elections. But he also issued a threat to the anti-coup movement, warning that acts of “terrorism which can be harmful to state tranquillity and security” were unacceptable.

Agence France-Presse contributed to this report

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US to stop trading with Myanmar until return of democratic government – The Guardian

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