NEW YORK — Today, President Bush will announce additional sanctions against the military dictatorship in Myanmar — also known as Burma — to support the push for democracy in that Asian country, the White House said Monday.
Myanmar’s military government issued a threat Monday to the barefoot Buddhist monks who led 100,000 people marching through Yangon in the strongest protests against the repressive regime for two decades.
The warning shows the increasing pressure the junta is under to either crack down on or compromise with a reinvigorated democracy movement. The monks have taken their traditional role as the conscience of society, backing the military into a corner from which it may lash out again.
The authorities did not stop the protests Monday, even as they built to a scale and fervor that rivaled the demonstrations bloodily suppressed by the army with mass shootings 19 years ago. The government has been handling the monks gingerly, wary of raising the ire of ordinary citizens in this devout, predominantly Buddhist nation.
However, on Monday night the country’s religious affairs minister appeared on state television to accuse the monks of being manipulated by the regime’s domestic and foreign enemies. Brig. Gen. Thura Myint Maung suggested that if senior monks did not restrain them, the government would act according to its own regulations, which he didn’t detail.
“I don’t like the government,” a 20-year-old monk participating in a protest in the central city of Mandalay said. “The government is very cruel and our country is full of troubles.”
Ordinary people have similar views, even if they may not act on them.
“I don’t like the government because it only thinks about itself. But there is nothing I can do. If I join the protest, I will lose everything,” said a hotel worker, also in Mandalay. Both she and the monk asked not to be named for fear of the authorities.
Bush, in a speech at the U.N. General Assembly, will announce financial sanctions against key members of the regime and those who provide them financial aid, said Stephen Hadley, the president’s national security adviser.
Hadley would not be specific about the financial sanctions to maintain what he called an element of surprise against those who might try to hide their assets. But he said they would target key members of the regime and those who provide financial support to them.
He also said there would be a visa ban against those associated with the regime, including their families.
“He will call for the United Nations and for other countries there to do all they can to support a process of political change in Burma,” Hadley said.
The U.S. restricts imports and exports and financial transactions with Myanmar. Washington also has imposed an arms embargo on Myanmar.