Biden announces U.S. sanctions against Myanmar military leaders following coup

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Updated: March 2, 2021

President Joseph R. Biden Jr. on Wednesday announced new sanctions against military leaders in Myanmar following a coup there on February 1.

Mr. Biden called on the military to relinquish power and release the civilian government, including leader Aung San Suu Kyi and President Win Myint.

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The sanctions include freezing Myanmar assets in the United States and imposing sanctions against the military leaders and close family members.

Myanmar's democracy movement leader and Nobel Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi in Washington, DC, on 18 septembrie 2012.
Myanmar’s democracy movement leader and Nobel Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi in Washington, DC, on 18 septembrie 2012.

The president said the $1 billion fund belonging to Myanmar held in the United States will be frozen.

Mr. Biden said: “I want to say good afternoon, everyone. I wanted to give you an update on the latest regarding our response to the military coup in Burma.

“As you know, the assault on Burma’s transition to democracy remains an issue of deep bipartisan concern. We’ve consulted at length, for example, with Senator McConnell, who’s had a very keen interest in this, and his team. And we welcomed their helpful insights.

“We’ve also been in close contact with our allies and partners around the world, particularly in the Indo-Pacific region, driving vigorous diplomatic outreach to help coordinate an international response to what happened.  

“A strong and unified message emerging from the United States has been essential, in our view, to encouraging other countries to join us in pressing for an immediate return to democracy. 

“Last week, the United States helped bring together the U.N. Security Council, which issued a strong statement in support of Burmese democracy. And this week, we will use our renewed engagement on the Human Rights Council to strengthen the world’s commitment to human rights in Burma.

“Today, I again call on the Burmese military to immediately release the democratic political leaders and activists and — that they’re now detaining, including Aung San Suu Kyi. And she is — and also Win Myint, the President.

“The military must relinquish the power it seized and demonstrate respect for the will of the people of Burma as expressed in their November 8th election.

“So today, I’m announcing a series — a series of actions that we’re taking to begin imposing consequences on the leaders of the coup. The U.S. government is taking steps to prevent the generals from improperly having access to the $1 billion in Burmese government funds held in the United States.

“And today, I’ve approved a new executive order — (coughs) — excuse me — a new executive order enabling us to immediately sanction the military leaders who directed the coup, their business interests, as well as close family members.

“We will identify a first round of targets this week. And we’re also going to impose strong export controls. And we’re freezing U.S. assets that benefit the Burmese government, while maintaining our support for healthcare, civil society groups, and other areas that benefit the people of Burma directly.

“And, finally, as protests grow, violence against those asserting their democratic rights is unacceptable, and we’re going to keep calling it out. The people of Burma are making their voices heard. And the world is watching.

“We’ll be ready to impose additional measures, and we’ll continue to work with our international partners to urge other nations to join us in these efforts.

“So I thank you all. I wanted to have that statement before I got in the vehicle to go out to the Pentagon. And I’m sure I’ll see some of you at the Pentagon. Thanks for coming over on such short notice. Thank you.

“On February 1, 2021, the Myanmar military arrested the civilian leaders of the national and state governments and announced a one-year “state of emergency.”

“The military arrested leader Aung San Suu Kyi, President Win Myint, and several dozen other senior officials in early morning raids in the capital, Naypyidaw. The officials were in Naypyidaw for the lower house of parliament to convene after the November 2020 national elections, which the NLD won by a large margin. The military also detained NLD officials and civil society activists in other parts of Myanmar, and cut telecommunications and the internet.”

The same day, President Biden released a strongly worded statement threatening to sanction Myanmar over the military coup.

“The international community should come together in one voice to press the Burmese military to immediately relinquish the power they have seized, release the activists and officials they have detained, lift all telecommunications restrictions, and refrain from violence against civilians,” President Biden said on February 1.

General Min Aung Hlaing has been accused by rights groups of human rights violations.

In a 2018 report, Amnesty International named Senior General Min Aung Hlaing among those who should be investigated for responsibility for crimes against humanity perpetrated as part of a widespread and systematic attack against the Rohingya population in northern Rakhine State.

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Simon Ateba
Simon Ateba
Simon Ateba covers the White House, the U.S. government, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and other financial and international institutions for Today News Africa in Washington D.C. Simon can be reached on simonateba@todaynewsafrica.com

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