Foreign governments have imposed further sanctions on Myanmar’s military government during a week that has seen security forces wreak deadly attacks on pro-democracy demonstrators across the Southeast Asian nation.

The US on 22 March imposed sanctions targeting individuals and groups linked to Myanmar's military junta and its repression of pro-democracy protesters, the US Treasury Department said.

"The Burmese security forces' lethal violence against peaceful protesters must end," said Andrea Gacki, former director of the Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control.

"We continue to stand with the people of Burma.”

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The European Union on the same day imposed its own sanctions on 11 individuals linked to the 1 February military coup.

The ensuing weeks have seen Myanmar transformed from being a magnet for foreign direct investment in its oil, gas, power and renewables sectors to an unstable country with an unelected junta at the helm.

Petronas, which has been involved in Myanmar’s oil and gas industry for close to three decades, became the latest operator to speak out in the wake of growing calls for players to stop payments to state-owned Myanma Oil & Gas Enterprise.

Malaysia’s national oil company on 23 March said that, as a business entity, it adheres to “prudent corporate governance and strict business practices in accordance with all applicable laws, rules, and regulations wherever it operates”.

Human rights commitment

“Petronas remains hopeful for Myanmar that a peaceful resolution will be forthcoming," it said.

As the security situation continued to deteriorate, the Singapore and UK governments urged their nationals to leave Myanmar. Two Australians trying to flee were denied departure from Yangon’s international airport and have been placed under house arrest.

The Myanmar military has been almost universally condemned by non-governmental agencies, human rights groups and overseas governments for its relentless brutality following the coup.

However, Singapore’s former foreign minister George Yeo said that the “hated” Tatmadaw (army) needs to be part of any post-coup solution.

Yeo claimed that dissolution of the Myanmar military would destabilise the nation in the same way that Western invasions of Libya and Iraq had left security vacuums.

While Bamar people make up around 70% of Myanmar’s population, there are as many as 150 ethnic minority groups, some of whom are still armed and have the capability to fight wars, he pointed out.

Immediate euphoria

"I think there's a fair chance that Myanmar will become like Libya and Iraq," Yeo in a dialogue at Yale-NUS College in Singapore.

The fallout could impact its neighbours including China, India and Bangladesh plus the wider Asean bloc, added Yeo, and the region would have "years, even decades of trouble".

Myanmar’s junta and the Committee Representing Pyidaungsu Hluttaw (CRPH) — the recently formed parallel civilian government — are both vying for the support of these ethnic groups, some of which for decades have been in armed conflict with the security forces.

The CRPH is reaching out to leaders of major ethnic militias including the Karen National Union, the Kachin Independence Army and the Restoration Council of Shan State.

The committee’s aim is to form a combined front against the Tatmadaw that could establish a federal state that would guarantee those groups’ rights to self rule.

“In order to form a federal democracy, which all ethnic brothers who have been suffering various kinds of oppressions from the dictatorship for decades really desire, this revolution is the chance for us to put our efforts together,” CRPH acting vice president Mahn Win Khaing Than said on Facebook.

The military has apologised for the deaths of pro-democracy protesters but blamed its violent crackdown on their "anarchy".