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New Zealand’s Ardern severs all contact with Myanmar military ‘government’ and vows to impose sanctions

New Zealand will suspend all high-level dialogue with Myanmar, ensure that its aid programmes do not include projects that benefit the junta, and impose a travel ban on Naypyidaw’s military leaders, as part of its diplomatic response to last week’s coup in the southeast Asian nation.

Prime minister Jacinda Ardern on Tuesday announced these measures after a cabinet meeting and said her government “will make sure any funding we put into Myanmar does not in any way support the military regime.”

The details of a travel ban for Myanmar’s military leaders were expected to be formalised later in the week, according to the New Zealand-based news website Stuff.

“Our strong message is we will do what we can from here in New Zealand and one of things we will do is suspend that high level dialogue,” Ms Ardern said.

Currently, New Zealand’s aid programme is worth about NZ$42m (£23.75m) between 2018 and 2021, which Ms Ardern described as “not insignificant.”

The prime minister said New Zealand’s help had been “well regarded and well respected, and I think had played a really constructive role in a critical time for Myanmar in their transition”.

“And so you would just want to make sure that that was managed in an appropriate way by MFAT (New Zealand’s foreign ministry) staff,” she said.

According to Stuff, sanctions against Myanmar’s military would have little practical impact since New Zealand’s trade with Myanmar was “often food based”.

“Every New Zealander would be devastated to see, after years of working so hard to build a democracy in Myanmar, to see what we’ve seen in recent days unfold led by the military. Our strong message is, we will do what we can from here in New Zealand,” Ms Ardern said.

In a separate statement quoted by Reuters, foreign minister Nanaia Mahuta said: “New Zealand does not recognise the legitimacy of the military-led government and called on the military to immediately release all detained political leaders and restore civilian rule.”

“We’re working with allies in terms of next steps and actions, and we’re wanting to ensure that there is a strong community of interest to ensure that there is a strong transition to democracy. It possibly could (involve sanctions), and those are matters being discussed within each respective country, and as we come together (and discuss) what our next steps could be together,” Mahuta had said earlier.

Myanmar’s military leader on Monday said the army would hold fresh elections and hand over power to the winner even as thousands of people continued to protest against the coup that overthrew Aung San Suu Kyi’s civilian government last week.

General Min Aung Hlaing did not specify when the elections would be held, but the initial order of emergency rule in the hours after the coup stipulated a timeframe of one year. The general has maintained that last November’s poll, won by Ms Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) party, was fraudulent.

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