Biden announces coup sanctions against the military in Myanmar

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President Joe Biden speaks on the situation in Myanmar in the South Court Auditorium of the Eisenhower Executive Office Building in Washington, DC on February 10, 2021.

Saul Loeb | AFP | Getty Images

President Joe Biden announced Wednesday that he would impose immediate sanctions on military leaders in Myanmar who ordered a coup that resulted, among other things, in the imprisonment of the nation’s democratically elected leader, Aung San Suu Kyi.

Biden also called on the Myanmar military to surrender power and release the prisoners confiscated in the coup.

“We’re going to set a first round of targets this week and also introduce strict export controls,” Biden said as he announced two new executive orders approving the sanctions.

“We are freezing US assets that benefit the Burmese government and we continue to support health care, civil society groups and other areas that benefit the people of Burma directly,” the president said.

Biden last week condemned the military takeover of the civilian-led government, describing it as a “direct attack on the country’s transition to democracy and the rule of law”.

The National League for Democracy (NLD) of Nobel Prize winner Suu Kyi won the election in Myanmar in a landslide last November.

But the generals behind the coup have claimed the election was fraudulent.

Citizens of Myanmar, including monks and nurses, took to the streets to protest the coup, which was wrapped in the red paint of the NLD party.

In response, the military banned rallies and gatherings of more than five people, as well as motorized processions, and imposed a curfew from 8 p.m. to 4 a.m. in Yangon and Mandalay, the country’s first and second largest cities.

The military also banned citizens’ use of the social media platforms Facebook, Twitter and Instagram “until further notice”.

The US officially eased previous sanctions against Myanmar in 2012 to allow US dollars to enter the country and withheld certain investments in the Myanmar armed forces and the Department of Defense

However, a clause in this step included the possibility of increasing sanctions against “those who undermine the reform process and engage in human rights abuses”.

State Department spokesman Ned Price said on Tuesday: “We are reiterating our calls for the military to relinquish power, restore the democratically elected government, release those in prison, lift all telecommunications restrictions and cease violence.”

Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said last week: “We have certainly seen what happened in Burma with great concern, but I do not see any US military role right now.

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