Myanmar parallel govt asks US for more sanctions, funding for anti-junta forces

| Updated: February 18, 2023 17:53:38

A slogan is written on a street as a protest after the coup in Yangon, Myanmar on February 21, 2021 — Reuters/Files A slogan is written on a street as a protest after the coup in Yangon, Myanmar on February 21, 2021 — Reuters/Files

Myanmar's pro-democracy forces want the United States to issue stronger sanctions against the junta that seized power in the country two years ago and increase funding for pro-democratic forces, the parallel civilian government's foreign minister told Reuters on Friday

Zin Mar Aung of the National Unity Government (NUG), an organisation comprised of remnants of the administration of deposed leader Aung San Suu Kyi and others, spoke to Reuters at the end of a weeklong visit to Washington that included meetings with Biden administration officials and members of Congress, reports Reuters.

The United States and its allies announced the latest round of sanctions against the military government on Jan. 31, ahead of the two-year anniversary of the coup that triggered global outrage and prompted domestic opponents to set up guerrilla forces.

"We still need to get and to put the sanctions more and more, because (they're) not enough yet," Zin Mar Aung said at a new office the NUG officially opened this week.

She called for financial sanctions on the state-owned Myanmar Oil and Gas Corporation that would cut off a major source of foreign currency for the junta and reduce the military’s access to aviation fuel to conduct airstrikes that have led to allegations of targeting civilians.

Washington last month sanctioned some officials working for the state energy company, but not the company itself. Those sanctions are "alarming them, but it's not helpful yet," she said.

The State Department did not immediately respond to questions about Zin Mar Aung's comments.

Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman, in a meeting with Zin Mar Aung on Tuesday, reiterated U.S. condemnation of the junta and outlined U.S. efforts "to promote accountability for the regime’s atrocities and to increase pressure on the regime to pursue a just and peaceful end to the crisis," the department said earlier this week.

Measures against Myanmar's junta were signed into law by President Joe Biden in December as part of the National Defense Authorization Act for this year, including authorization to provide technical and non-lethal assistance to armed groups fighting the military, including People's Defense Forces operating under the NUG.

Zin Mar Aung called on Washington to follow that legislation with more funding, noting that a fraction of the aid that Washington is sending to help Ukrainians in their fight with Russia could have a major impact on the conflict.

"If even we have a very small amount and small ratio comparing to Ukraine, we will definitely win," she said, adding that the NUG has asked the United States to provide an early warning system to give villagers notice of incoming junta attacks, as well as other communications help.

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