U.S. slap sanctions on companies linked to Myanmar coup

After another bloody week in Myanmar, where the country’s military took control last month, the U.S. said Thursday that it was slapping sanctions on two holding companies linked to the coup’s leaders.

The penalties, which were instituted in coordination with the U.K., followed the deaths of at least 27 people — including 7 children — over the weekend in the Myanmar military’s assault on its own people, according to the U.S. State Department.

The Southeast Asian country’s armed forces detained the civilian leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and other top leaders in her party on Feb. 1, prompting large protests around the country.

The authorities cracked down hard on demonstrators, and by March 16, at least 149 people had died in the protests, according to the UN human rights office.

Over the weekend, gruesome scenes included the shooting death of a child who was sitting on her father’s lap at home, according to the U.S. State Department.

“The regime cannot govern through terror,” Ned Price, a department spokesperson, said in a statement on Thursday.

The U.S. said its sanctions would narrowly target coup leaders and the military and would not target citizens.

Many people in the country, which is home to about 55 million people, have attempted to grind the economy to a halt by striking. The labor stoppages, though, have yet to shift the military’s posture.

Also Thursday, a U.S. official said the government is reviewing whether to describe the treatment of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar as a “genocide.” Their persecution predates the coup, tracing back several years.

Scott Busby, an acting principal deputy assistant secretary of state, said the review has started as he spoke in a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing.

“The coup has obviously compelled us to consider undertaking a wide array of actions,” Busby said.

He added that some of the moves — including the new sanctions — apply to the same people responsible for “atrocities against the Rohingya.”

Secretary of State Antony Blinken tweeted that the U.S. remains “steadfast” in its support of the people of Myanmar who are working to “restore peace and democracy.”

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