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Tuesday, 23 February 2021

Western countries step up pressure on Myanmar junta as protesters defy warnings

Western countries step up pressure on Myanmar junta as protesters defy warnings From REUTERS
Junta leader General Min Aung Hlaing called for energy to be put into reviving the ailing economy, state media reported, a day after a general strike shut businesses and huge crowds gathered despite a warning from authorities that confrontation could get people killed. U.N. Special Rapporteur Tom Andrews said millions had marched on Monday in a “breathtaking” turnout, despite the junta’s threat. “The generals are losing their power to intimidate and with it, their power. It is past time for them to stand down, as the people of Myanmar stand up,” Andrews said on Twitter. Crowds gathered again on Tuesday though in much smaller numbers. There were no reports of confrontations with security forces. Overnight, EU governments showed support for those seeking to reverse the Feb. 1 coup and the release of elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi. “We are not prepared to stand by and watch,” German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said in Brussels, adding that sanctions could follow if diplomacy failed. The European Union is considering sanctions that would target businesses owned by the army, but the bloc ruled out any curtailing of its trade preferences to avoid hurting poor workers. The security forces have shown more restraint since the coup than in earlier confrontations with those pushing for democracy in almost half a century of direct military rule. Even so, three protesters have been killed - two shot dead in the second city of Mandalay on Saturday, and a woman who died on Friday after being shot more than a week earlier in the capital, Naypyitaw. The army has said one policeman died of injuries sustained during the protests. It has accused protesters of provoking violence.

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