Myanmar's new junta leader calls for end to protests, sanctions loom

WION Web Team
Yangon, MyanmarUpdated: Feb 11, 2021, 07:16 PM IST


Story highlights

Min Aung Hlaing's plea came as a sixth day of protests against him and his coup spanned the Southeast Asian country.

Myanmar's new junta leader has called on civil servants to return to work, urging them to stop mass gatherings to avoid spreading coronavirus as the US moved a step closer to imposing sanctions on him and his fellow generals.

Min Aung Hlaing's plea came as a sixth day of protests against him and his coup spanned the Southeast Asian country.

Britain said it was also considering measures it could apply to punish the February 1 takeover that halted an unsteady transition to democracy.

The coup and the detention of elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi along with scores of others have prompted the biggest demonstrations since a 2007 "Saffron Revolution" that ultimately became a step towards democratic reforms.

Senior General Min Aung Hlaing addressed the protests for the first time in public, blaming "unscrupulous persons" for work stoppages in a growing civil disobedience movement by medics, teachers, railway workers and many other government employees.

"Those who are away from their duties are requested to return to their duties immediately for the interests of the country and people without focusing on the emotion," he said.

He also urged people to avoid gatherings, which he said would fuel the spread of the coronavirus.

Protesters gathered across the country on Thursday. Hundreds of workers lined a road in the capital Naypyitaw, chanting anti-junta slogans and carrying placards supporting Suu Kyi. Thousands demonstrated in the main city of Yangon, some taking a humorous approach, such as men dressed in short skirts.

The military launched the coup after what it said was widespread fraud in a November election, won by Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy (NLD) in a landslide. The electoral commission had rejected those claims.

Suu Kyi, who was swept to power following a historic election victory in 2015, faces charges of illegally importing six walkie-talkie radios.

To this end, US President Joe Biden on Wednesday also approved an executive order for new sanctions on those responsible for the coup.

"The military must relinquish power it seized and demonstrate respect for the world and the people of Burma as expressed in their November 8th election," he said.

Suu Kyi 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 says he has not been allowed to see her.

Min Aung Hlaing and other top generals are already under U.S. sanctions imposed in 2019 over abuses against Rohingya Muslims and other minorities.

(with inputs)