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The European Union has imposed sanctions on 10 of Myanmar’s military leaders, as well as two giant military conglomerates, in its toughest measures yet against the February 1 coup and the bloody crackdown on protesters demanding the return of the elected government.

Announcing the sanctions on Monday, 19 April, which include asset freezes and visa bans, EU member states said the individuals were “all responsible for undermining democracy and the rule of law in Myanmar/Burma, and for repressive decisions and serious human rights violations”.

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Myanmar’s State Administration Council (SAC), set up by the military the day after it seized power, was “responsible for undermining democracy and the rule of law”, the EU said in its official journal.

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Myanmar: European Union imposes tough sanctions on leaders

“The military forces and authorities operating under the control of the SAC have committed serious human rights violations since February 1, 2021, killing civilian and unarmed protesters,” the EU said.

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Nine of those singled out are members of the State Administration Council. information minister U Chit Naing was also sanctioned.

Myanmar: European Union imposes tough sanctions on leaders

Myanmar has been rocked by almost daily protests since the coup and the military has stepped up its attempts to crush dissent even as the United Nations and Western countries have condemned their takeover and the escalating violence.

Thousands have been arrested since the coup and at least 738 civilians have been killed, according to the human rights group Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, which is monitoring the situation. More than 4,000 people have been arrested and 3,261 remain in detention, according to the group, which the military has accused of spreading fake news.

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Myanmar: European Union imposes tough sanctions on leaders

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said after the virtual talks with his EU counterparts Monday that the military government was “manoeuvring the country into a dead-end”.

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That, he said, “is why we are increasing the pressure to bring the military to the negotiating table”.

The sanctions, long demanded by human rights groups, bar EU investors and banks from doing business with the companies.

The military has justified its power grab after 10 years of tentative steps towards democracy by claiming that the November 2020 election that returned Aung San Suu Kyi and her party to power in a landslide was riddled with fraud. The election commission, whose members were also detained during the coup, has rejected the accusations.

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Myanmar: European Union imposes tough sanctions on leaders

As protests continued in Myanmar on Monday, United Nations secretary-general Antonio Guterres told the security council that a “robust international response grounded on a unified regional effort” was needed, urging “regional actors to leverage their influence to prevent further deterioration and, ultimately, find a peaceful way out of this catastrophe.”

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