EU to impose new sanctions on Myanmar junta, companies -top envoy

European Union High Representative for Foreign Affairs Josep Borrell attends a news conference after a EU-Georgia association council in Brussels, Belgium, March 16, 2021. REUTERS/Yves Herman/Pool

JAKARTA, June 3 (Reuters) - The European Union will impose a new round of sanctions on Myanmar's military junta and its economic interests in the coming days, EU foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell told Reuters on Thursday.

In an interview in Jakarta after meetings with Southeast Asian diplomats, Borrell said the fresh sanctions from the EU would be the third batch introduced since the military ousted Myanmar's democratically-elected government on Feb. 1.

"There is a third row of sanctions in preparation that will be approved (in) the coming days (targeting) personnel of the military junta and also the entity that represents the economic interests of the military," he said.

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Since the coup, EU sanctions have frozen assets or applied travel bans on 21 military and civilian members of Myanmar's junta. European citizens and companies are also forbidden from making funds available to those sanctioned.

The bloc's last round of sanctions in April targeted military-owned conglomerates Myanma Economic Holdings Limited (MEHL) and Myanmar Economic Corporation (MEC), barring EU investors and banks from doing business with them.

The EU sanctions, along with those of other Western powers, have yet to persuade the junta to cede to their demands to restore democracy, release political detainees or begin dialogue with members of the ousted government, many of whom are imprisoned.

The coup plunged Myanmar into crisis after 10 years of tentative steps toward democracy. Mass demonstrations have met with a deadly crackdown by security forces and the economy has collapsed. A refugee crisis is growing and some of Myanmar's many ethnic armed groups are taking up arms against the junta.

While in Jakarta, Borrell met with envoys from countries in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) on Thursday. The headquarters of ASEAN, which includes Myanmar as one of its 10 members, is based in the Indonesian capital.

Borrell said he told the Myanmar representative to ASEAN: to "end repression and go back to normal political behaviour through free and fair elections".

He said he wanted ASEAN to continue to lead the global diplomatic effort to restore stability and democracy to Myanmar, even though the group has been criticised by human rights groups, opponents of the junta and experts for being too slow and too meek in responding to the coup.

"They are doing the best possible job," said Borrell.

As first reported by Reuters, two senior ASEAN officials are heading to Myanmar this week to meet with the junta, the first visit by the bloc's representatives since the coup was launched.

ASEAN has also said it opposed a non-binding United Nations resolution for an arms embargo on Myanmar. The EU already has a freeze on the sale and transfer of weapons to the country.

A further 14 high-ranking Myanmar military officials were sanctioned by the EU for serious human rights abuses against the Rohingya minority after some 700,000 of the Muslim ethnic group were violently expelled from Buddhist-majority Myanmar by security forces in 2017.

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Reporting by Tom Allard

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