Burmese People Throw Funeral for Min Aung Hlaing’s Birthday as U.S. Announces New Sanctions on Myanmar

People in Myanmar demonstrated Saturday (July 3) against a coup by military personnel to overthrow the democratically elected government. The protesters took the occasion of military leader Min Aung Hlaing’s birthday to burn a fake coffin and his portrait prepared for him.

People wrote on wreaths, “May you never have peace” and “May your birthday and death be the same day. Similar events have been seen in many places across Myanmar.

On the other hand, the United States announced on Friday that four more companies that support the military government have been placed on a trade blacklist. The U.S. Treasury Department announced sanctions against 22 individuals, including four Burmese ministerial officials. The Treasury Department says this is the latest measure to punish Burma’s military government for overthrowing the democratically elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi.

Secretary of State John Blinken said in a statement that the new sanctions are a response to the brutal atrocities committed by the Burmese junta.

Blinken said the sanctions are not aimed at the Burmese people, but are intended to pressure the Burmese military to “immediately resume Burma’s path toward democracy.”

Min Aung Hlaing took over the country’s power on Feb. 1 of this year. He overthrew democratically elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi in a coup d’état that interrupted a decade of democratic reforms. The reforms have lifted Myanmar out of its previous international isolation under the military government.

Under Burmese government rules, Min Aung Hlaing, who turns 65 this year, must retire, but the coup has made that rule unworkable.

The military says it took over state power in accordance with the constitution. It has accused fraud in the elections held last November. The election commission, however, did not accept the military’s accusation. The party led by Aung San Suu Kyi won a landslide victory in that election.

Since the coup, there have been almost daily protest demonstrations in many parts of Myanmar. Strikes have taken a toll on official and private businesses, and there has been fighting in border areas that has caused some 200,000 people to flee their homes.

According to the United Nations, more than 880 people have been killed by security forces and more than 5,200 have been arrested by authorities since the coup in Myanmar.

Myanmar’s foreign ministry said in a statement Saturday that the figures “cannot be confirmed. But it did not provide specific figures on deaths and arrests. Hundreds of people have been released this week.

Myanmar’s foreign ministry criticized the U.N. website for having a link to the Burmese underground group, the National Unity Government, which opposes the military government.