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US condemns Myanmar military for Christmas Eve killings, seeks end to arm sales
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US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has condemned the Myanmar military’s killing of dozens of civilians on Christmas Eve, calling for an end to arms sales to the country’s ruling junta and urging a global response to its “atrocities”. The Friday attack, which occurred on a highway in the eastern Myanmar state of Kayah, is believed to have left at least 35 dead, including children and two staff members of Save the Children, the international aid group. According to the charity, the Myanmar military forced people out of their cars, arrested some and killed others, before burning their bodies. Using the country’s former name, Blinken expressed alarm on Tuesday at the military regime’s “brutality” and said that its “widespread atrocities against the people of Burma underscore the urgency of holding its members accountable.” “The international community must do more to advance this goal and prevent the recurrence of atrocities in Burma, including by ending the sale of arms and dual-use technology to the military,” Blinken added. In February, the Myanmar military seized power from the country’s democratically elected government, quashing protests with deadly force. Since the coup, the military junta has killed 1,380 people, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, a Myanmar-focused advocacy group. The State Department did not respond to questions about which countries Blinken was targeting with his appeal, but China is by far Myanmar’s largest supplier of major arms, followed by India and Russia. China provided 48 per cent of Myanmar’s arms procurements from 2016 to 2020, ahead of India’s 16 per cent and Russia’s 15 per cent, according the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, a tracker of global arms sales. Save the Children says two staff died in Myanmar massacre Following the coup, the European Union’s top diplomat, Josep Borrell, accused Beijing and Moscow of hampering an effective international response, and said that China was “keen to protect its strategic interests in the country”. In June, China and Russia were the only United Nations Security Council members to abstain from a UN resolution calling for an end to arms sales to Myanmar, indicating that they would likely block any attempt by the council to pass a binding arms embargo. In a December 20 speech, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi referred to the coup as “changes in Myanmar’s domestic politics” and highlighted Beijing’s consistent support for the country. Blinken’s call for an end to arms sales follows steps by the administration of US President Joe Biden to sanction Myanmar’s military leaders and restrict US suppliers’ ability to export sensitive goods – including those with military applications – to the country. Blinken said that the US would continue to work with allies to press for accountability for the Myanmar military’s actions, and also supported a United Nations effort to investigate the regime’s possible crimes against international law. “We call on the Burmese regime to ensure the safety of humanitarian workers and to grant free and unhindered access to those providing humanitarian assistance for the people of Burma,” Blinken said.

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