RANGOON, Burma -- As Burma's junta used violence again Thursday to suppress protests against the military's takeover, the United States and Britain announced tough sanctions against two holding companies that provide financial sustenance for the army regime.
The U.S. Treasury Department said its action against Myanma Economic Holdings Public Company Limited and Myanmar Economic Corporation Limited targeted the army's control of large parts of the country's economy, "which is a vital financial lifeline for the military junta."
The sanctions against the two companies and their holdings blocks access to any property they control in the United States and effectively bars any U.S. person or company from conducting any sort of business with them, including supplying them with funds or providing goods or services. The department's Office of Foreign Assets Control can make exceptions for companies it licenses.
"These sanctions specifically target the economic resources of Burma's military regime, which is responsible for the overthrow of Burma's democratically elected government and the ongoing repression of the Burmese people," the announcement from Washington said. "These sanctions are not directed at the people of Burma."
Burma is often called Myanmar, a name that military authorities adopted in 1989. Some nations, such as the United States and Britain, have refused to adopt the name change.
Britain's action only targets Myanma Economic Holdings Public Company Limited. "Today's sanctions target the military's financial interests to help drain the sources of finance for their campaigns of repression against civilians," Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said.
The U.S. and Britain had already issued sanctions personally targeting the military leaders who staged the Feb. 1 coup. Opponents of the coup, inside and outside Burma, had been lobbying strongly to target the holding companies as well.
Inside Burma, protesters returned to the streets in large numbers, a day after people engaged in a "silence strike" by staying home and closing businesses for the day.
Security forces sought to break up some of the protests by force. Social media accounts and local news outlets reported violent attacks on demonstrators in Hpa-an, the capital of the southeastern Karen state, as well as the eastern Shan state's capital of Taunggyi and Mon state's capital of Mawlamyine, also in the southeast. It was not clear if soldiers used live ammunition in addition to firing rubber bullets at the demonstrators.
The Myanmar Now news service said initial reports were that four people were killed in Taunggyi. The Democratic Voice of Burma news service said two young men were shot and seriously wounded in Hpa-an.
Protests in the two largest cities, Rangoon and Mandalay, proceeded peacefully in the morning, but later reports said security forces in Rangoon had attacked demonstrators.
As the violence resumed, the U.N.'s independent expert on human rights in Burma called for U.N. members to hold an emergency summit with all concerned parties, including the Committee Representing Pyidaungsu Hluttaw, an organization of elected lawmakers who have declared themselves the country's legitimate government. The group has been declared illegal by the junta.
"Conditions in Myanmar are deteriorating," said Tom Andrews. "But they will likely get much worse without an immediate robust, international response in support of those under siege."
The foreign ministers of Indonesia and Singapore called on Burma's military to stop the use of force and prevent more casualties. "We also urged Myanmar to start dialogue to put democracy, peace and stability back on track," Indonesia Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi said after meeting with her Singaporean counterpart.
All three countries are members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, and the two foreign ministers agreed they would urge the group's national leaders to work on a common position for supporting Burma.
The military's seizure of power ousted the elected government led by Aung San Suu Kyi, whose party won a landslide election victory last November. It halted the Southeast Asian nation's move toward democracy that began when Suu Kyi's party took office in 2016 for its first term, after more than five decades of military rule.