Myanmar’s junta lost a tug of war over the leadership of its UN mission in New York, and the United States unveiled new sanctions against military conglomerates following the deaths of dozens of civilians protesting last month’s coup.
With toasts over diplomatic loyalties abroad, pro-democracy activists said they planned to hold more demonstrations in Myanmar on Friday to oppose the suspension of the elected government in Aung San Suu Kyi on February 1.
“Our federation will be on track to fight the military regime together with the people,” the All Burma Federation of Student Unions posted on social media late Thursday.
Police broke up gatherings with tear gas and gunfire in several cities across Myanmar on Thursday, when the protesters returned to the streets after the United Nations said that 38 people had been killed on Wednesday in the bloodiest day of protests so far.
UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet called on security forces to stop what she called their “vicious aggregation of peaceful protesters.” Bachelet said more than 1,700 people had been arrested, including 29 journalists.
A spokesman for the ruling military council did not answer phone calls to comment.
A clash over who represents Myanmar at the UN in New York was averted – for the time being – after the junta’s replacement left and Myanmar’s UN mission confirmed that Ambassador Kyaw Moe Tun remained in office.
The junta fired Kyaw Moe Tun on Saturday after urging countries at the UN General Assembly to use “all necessary means” to reverse the coup.
In Washington, it was unclear whether the Myanmar embassy still represented the junta, after issuing a statement rejecting civilian deaths protesting the coup and urging authorities to “exercise the utmost restraint.”
A diplomat at the embassy also resigned and at least three others said in social media posts that they joined the civil disobedience movement against the military government.
“This is an encouragement for us who are going out on the streets tomorrow,” Facebook user U Zay Yan wrote, responding to the news.
The UN human rights investigator in Myanmar, Thomas Andrews, called on the Security Council – which is meeting to discuss the situation on Friday – to impose a global arms embargo and direct economic sanctions against the junta.
States should impose sanctions on Myanmar Oil and Gas Enterprise, which is now controlled by the military and its main source of revenue, he said in a report.
The New York Fed freezes $ 1 million
Myanmar’s activists continued to demand the release of Suu Kyi, 75, who was arrested on the morning of the coup, and recognition of her November 8 victory. They also reject the junata’s promise to hold new elections on an unspecified date.
Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) party won the election in a landslide but the military has refused to accept the result on the grounds of fraud. The Election Commission said the vote was fair.
Hundreds of people attended the funeral of a 19-year-old woman who was shot dead during a protest in a T-shirt that read “Everything will be OK”. After her death, the slogan went viral as a symbol of defiance.
Sources told Reuters that Myanmar’s military rulers tried to move about $ 1 billion held at the Federal Reserve Bank in New York days after seizing power. U.S. officials froze those funds indefinitely, they said.
The U.S. Department of Commerce designated trade against Myanmar’s Department of Defense, the Department of the Interior and two military conglomerates that control parts of the economy, with interests ranging from beer to real estate.
However, the measures are expected to have a limited impact as the units are not large importers.
“A bigger impact would be to go after the financial assets of the coup’s military leaders,” said William Reinsch, a former Department of Commerce official.
The European Union suspended support for development projects in order to avoid providing financial support to the military. Support in recent years has involved more than € 200 million ($ 241 million) in separate programs.
Myanmar’s generals have long backed off outside the press.
The United States has told China, which has refused to condemn the coup, that it expects it to play a constructive role. China has said that stability is a top priority in its strategic neighbor.