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Radio Free Asia

US Sanctions Myanmar Junta Figures as Chin Fighters Claim 6 Army Troop Kills

2021-05-17 -- The United States imposed sanctions on Myanmar's junta and 13 military regime figures on Monday, specifically citing the "violence and repression" against civilians in the western town of Mindat, where the army unleashed heavy artillery and helicopter gunships in a weekend fight against ethnic Chin militia fighters.

The U.S. Treasury Department asset freezes and other punishments of generals and ministers were announced in Washington, while a branch of the Chinland Defense Force (CDF) said it had killed at least six regime soldiers and wounded 10 overnight in Hakha, capital of the state of Chin in Myanmar's far northwest.

"Today, the United States is announcing new sanctions against Burma's military regime in response to its continued violence and repression against the people of Burma, most recently in Mindat, Chin State, and its failure to take any steps to restore Burma's democratic transition," Secretary of State Antony Blinken said.

"Our actions today underscore our resolve and that of our partners to apply political and financial pressure on the regime as long as it fails to stop violence and take meaningful action to respect the will of the people," he said a statement that noted that Britain and Canada were also imposing sanctions on the junta.

The U.S. embassy in Yangon on Saturday sharply condemned "the military's use of weapons of war against civilians" in a siege of Mindat, where junta troops pounded the mountainous town with heavy artillery and helicopter gunships, killing at last five civilians in attacks on the CDF.

In days of fighting after the military regime declared martial law in Mindat on May 13, eight Chinland resistance fighters were killed, and junta troops used detained civilians as human shields while firing indiscriminately, the Irrawaddy, an independent on-line news outlet, reported Sunday.

The CDF moved out of Mindat late Sunday after the military had seized the town of 15,000 people, a member of the Mindat CDF told RFA.

"Right now, residents have moved out to safety. We, the CDF, have also avoided confrontation for the sake of the townsfolk. No more attacks (from our side)," said the local fighter.

"But their troops have been going around, firing at houses indiscriminately."

Acts of terrorism'

A 10-year-old girl was injured Monday when the army shelled Mindat and hit some homes, local residents said.

In the Chin capital Hakha, about 155 miles (260 km) north of Mindat, a branch of the CDF called the Hakha People's Defense Force said Monday it had killed six junta troops and wounded 10 others in a shootout the previous evening, while losing one fighter.

"We condemn the attacks on us. We consider their actions to be acts of terrorism," said a Hakha CDF militiaman, who declined to give his name.

"Six of them died on the spot when more than 10 of them stepped on mines we had laid out. One of us was also killed in the clash," he told RFA.

About 60 junta troops came in four trucks and fired rocket-propelled grenades and 60mm artillery in battles with CDF fighters armed with traditional flintlock hunting rifles, in the sixth clash since the coup, the Hakha militiaman said.

The Hakha unit said it had killed nearly junta 20 soldiers in total, he added.

Junta spokesman Maj. Gen. Zaw Min Tun has not picked up his phone recently when RFA has called for comment on the clashes.

A junta statement issued on social media May 15, however, said that there had been seven clashes with security forces in Mindat township between April 24 and May 13, the day that an attack on the highway between Mindat and Matupi to the west destroyed a military vehicle and killed several troops.

'Oh God it hurts'

On May 14, six vehicles were destroyed by gunfire about 1.2 miles (2 km) east of Mindat, killing and wounding several soldiers, the statement said.

In Tedim, a town in northern Chin state, a 27-year-old man named Go Shin Mun was killed and two others were injured when junta forces opened fire on them Sunday night, a local resident said.

"The man was hit in front of our house around 8 o'clock. I heard gunshots and later heard a voice. Then the motorcycle stopped," the local man said.

"The man spoke in Burmese saying 'Oh God it hurts. I didn't do anything, sir.' He said he was in pain. I heard two more gunshots, and then everything was quiet,' he added.

The U.S. Treasury Department said in a statement that the new U.S. sanctions targeted the State Administration Council (SAC), four of its members, and nine army-appointed cabinet ministers, and three adult children of sanctioned junta leaders.

The 13 officials are "key members of Burma's military regime, which is violently repressing the pro-democracy movement in the country and is responsible for the ongoing violent and lethal attacks against the people of Burma, including the killing of children," said the statement.

"The U.S. will continue to impose sanctions against the military regime in Burma for its violent repression of its people, and refusal to respect their demands for democracy," State Department spokesman Ned Price tweeted Monday. "We encourage all countries to consider similar measures."

Reported by RFA's Myanmar Service. Translated by Khin Maung Nyane. Written in English by Paul Eckert

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