UN envoy to Myanmar warns risk of 'imminent bloodbath'
Britain on Thursday ramped up sanctions against the Myanmar junta over its brutal crackdown on protests, as ousted civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi appeared in court.
More than 535 people have been killed in daily demonstrations since the military overthrew Suu Kyi on February 1, halting Myanmar's decade-old experiment in democracy.
International powers have sought to pile pressure on the military by hitting its sprawling business interests, which include the country's lucrative jade and ruby trade.
Britain, the country's former colonial ruler, announced sanctions on the Myanmar Economic Corporation (MEC), a conglomerate controlled by the military that Washington has already blacklisted.
London will also stump up $700,000 towards UN Security Council efforts to document serious human rights violations in Myanmar.
"Two months on from the start of the coup, the Myanmar military has sunk to a new low with the wanton killing of innocent people, including children," British foreign minister Dominic Raab said in a statement.
The measures would hit one of the military's "key funding streams", he added.
Suu Kyi hearing
The sanctions came as Suu Kyi appeared by video link in court in the capital Naypyidaw, where she faces a raft of charges that could see her barred from political office.
The hearing dealt with administrative aspects of the case including the formal appointment of 8 defence lawyers.
"Daw Aung San Suu Kyi's physical condition was good according to the (lawyer who saw her on screen). She was smart and charming as always," lawyer Khin Maung Zaw told reporters.
"She demanded a meeting between her and her lawyers -- a private meeting to give her instructions to the lawyers and discuss the case without any outside interference by police or armed forces."
The next hearing will be April 12.
The junta is also probing the Nobel laureate over allegations she took payments of gold and more than $1 million in cash, but Khin Maung Zaw said these were not likely to translate into formal charges at this stage.
A group of ousted MPs from Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy (NLD), who have been working underground against the junta, have announced plans for "a new civilian government" in the first week of April.
They said Myanmar's military-drafted 2008 constitution was "cancelled," and on Thursday a group of protesters burned a pile of copies in the street in Yangon.
In another blow to the junta's business interests, two military-owned supermarkets in Yangon were set ablaze overnight, and more international companies cut ties.
German company Giesecke+Devrient, which supplies raw materials to Myanmar's central bank for the production of banknotes, announced on Wednesday it was suspending deliveries.
French renewable energy giant Voltalia said it was also withdrawing from the country because of the political and humanitarian crisis.
Protests -- and the security forces' tough response -- continue and in Monywa in central Myanmar on Thursday afternoon a 31-year-old protester was shot dead, while 10 others were wounded, a rescue worker told AFP.
The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies said security forces had been targeting first responders.
"Myanmar Red Cross first aiders and medics have been wrongfully arrested, intimidated or injured and Red Cross property and ambulances have been damaged. This is unacceptable," Asia-Pacific director Alexander Matheou said.
The UN special envoy on Myanmar, Christine Schraner Burgene, told the 15-member UNSC on Wednesday that the military was not capable of managing the country.
The council must consider "potentially significant action" to reverse the course of events as "a bloodbath is imminent," she said.
Britain's UN envoy Barbara Woodward said the Security Council was "united in its condemnation" and was discussing "a range of measures at our disposal," but China ruled out sanctions or other "coercive measures."