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U.S. blacklists adult children of Myanmar junta's leader

People help an injured man during protests in Mandalay, Myanmar, on Feb. 28. Security forces continue to crackdown on demonstrations against the military coup. Photo by Xiao Long/UPI
People help an injured man during protests in Mandalay, Myanmar, on Feb. 28. Security forces continue to crackdown on demonstrations against the military coup. Photo by Xiao Long/UPI | License Photo

March 10 (UPI) -- The Biden administration blacklisted the adult children of the Myanmar junta's leader on Wednesday as human rights groups warn of escalating violence in the Southeast Asian nation.

Treasury announced Aung Pyae Sone, 36, and Khin Thiri Thet Mon, 39, the adult children of armed forces Commander-in-Chief Min Aung Hlaing, as well as six of their companies have been sanctioned, freezing all of their U.S. property and assets while barring Americans from doing business with them.

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The federal agency said it took this step in retaliation against the military for ousting the democratically-elected government in a coup on Feb. 1 and the subsequent brutal crackdown on protesters that have resulted in more than 50 deaths.

"The indiscriminate violence by Burma's security forces against peaceful protesters is unacceptable," Andrea M. Gacki, the director of the Office of Foreign Assets Control at the Treasury, said in a statement referring to Myanmar by its older name. "The United States will continue to work with our international partners to press the Burmese military and police to cease all violence against peaceful protesters and to restore democracy and the rule of law in Burma."

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The military, know as the Tatmadaw, seized control of the government in a coup, arresting members of the government, including the country's civilian leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, and has used escalating violence to quell protests.

More than 2,000 people have been arrested, charged or sentenced in relation to the coup and the death toll has surpassed 60, including two politicians of Suu Kyi's political party, according to a daily update Wednesday on the situation in Myanmar by the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners. The United Nations said last week that as of March 1, 61 had died, referring to the crime as murder.

The Treasury said Pyae Sone and Thet Mon have directly benefited from their father's position and influence with Pyae Sone having been awarded a 30-year permit in 2013 to lease land for the Yangon Restaurant and Yangon Gallery in Yangon without facing competing bids.

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He also only pays 1% of the rental rate compared with comparable properties while Thet Mon's media production company, Seventh Sense, has an exclusive contract with actor Nay Toe who advertises the mobile telephone operator company established by Aung Hlaing.

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Along with the Yangon Restaurant, the Yangon Gallery and Seventh Sense, sanctions were imposed against A & M Mahar Company Ltd., Sky One Construction Company Ltd. and Everfit Company.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a separate statement on Wednesday the families of those responsible for the coup should be denied benefits gained by a regime that resorts to violence "and tightens its stranglehold on democracy."

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"We will not hesitate to take further action against those who instigate violence and suppress the will of the people," he said. "These sanctions are directed at those responsible for the coup, in support of the people of Burma."

The sanctions were imposed as Amnesty International released a report on Thursday stating the military was employing lethal tactics and weapons against protesters that are usually saved for the battlefield.

The human rights group analyzed more than 50 videos of the crackdown, determining that security forces are implementing strategies that escalate force with many of the documented killings amounting to extrajudicial executions.

"These are not the actions of overwhelmed, individual officers making poor decisions," Joanne Mariner, director of the Crisis Response at Amnesty International, said in a statement. "These are unrepentant commanders already implicated in crimes against humanity, deploying their troops and murderous methods in the open."

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Security forces have been armed with Semi-automatic rifles, uzis and submachine guns, it said.

"The weaponry deployed by the Tatmadaw reveals a deliberate and dangerous escalation in tactics," Mariner said. "Not content with indiscriminately using less-lethal weapons, each new day shows an apparent order to deploy semi-automatic rifles, sniper rifles and light machine guns in increasing numbers.

"Make no mistake, we are in a deadly new phase of the crisis," Mariner said.

The sanctions by the United States follow the Commerce Department establishing new export restrictions of sensitive items to Myanmar.

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