Myanmar threatens jail for buyers of bonds issued by opposition

FILE PHOTO: Myanmar's military spokesman General Zaw Min Tun attends a news conference ahead of the start of a new parliament term and the formation of the new government in Naypyitaw, Myanmar January 26, 2021. REUTERS/Thar Byaw/File Photo

(Reuters) - Myanmar's ruling military threatened on Friday to arrest citizens who invest in bonds offered by a shadow government, warning of lengthy prison sentences for their involvement in what it called "terrorist" financing.

The National Unity Government (NUG), an alliance of pro-democracy groups, ethnic minority armies and remnants of the civilian government overthrown by the military, said this week it had raised $9.5 million in the first 24 hours of its bonds sale

The NUG says the proceeds from the zero-interest bonds will fund its "revolution" against the military in response to its Feb. 1 coup and bloody suppression of protests. It has not said how the funds would be used.

Zaw Min Tun, the junta's spokesman, said the NUG has been outlawed as a "terrorist organisation", so those providing funding faced serious charges.

"Action can be taken under terrorism charges with heavy sentences for those financing the terrorist groups," he told a regular televised news conference

"If you buy the money bonds, it falls under that (provision)."

Myanmar has been in turmoil since the coup, which led to strikes and protests and a severe military crackdown on activists. It also led to the formation in several regions of militia forces allied with the NUG, some backed by armed ethnic groups.

More than 1,200 civilians have been killed in protests and thousands detained since the coup, according to activists cited by the United Nations.

International pressure on the junta is intense.

The regional Association of Southeast Asian Nations blocked junta leader Min Aung Hlaing from a summit meeting last month over his failure to cease hostilities, allow humanitarian access and start dialogue, as agreed with the group.

U.S. President Joe Biden, who addressed the summit, also rebuked the regime.

The bonds went on sale on Monday to mainly Myanmar nationals overseas in denominations of $100, $500, $1,000 and $5,000, with two-year tenures.

The NUG did not disclose how many buyers took part in the sale, which requires participants to transfer funds to an account in the Czech Republic.

(Reporting by Reuters Staff; Writing by Martin Petty; Editing by)

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