Biden threatens sanctions on Myanmar over military coup, launches policy review

World

Soldiers stand guard on a blockaded road to Myanmar’s parliament in Naypyidaw on February 1, 2021, after the military detained the country’s de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi and the country’s president in a coup. Photo by STRINGER / AFP /Getty Images

WASHINGTON (NewsNation Now) — The United States will immediately review sanctions laws and take “appropriate action” after Myanmar’s military seized power in a coup against the democratically elected government, President Joe Biden said on Monday, calling for a concerted international response to press them to relinquish power.

Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, the leader of the Myanmar government, was detained along with other leaders of her National League for Democracy (NLD) party in early Monday morning raids. The country, also known as Burma, has been a U.S. democracy promotion project for decades, though there have been recent and serious concerns about its backsliding into authoritarianism.

“The military’s seizure of power in Burma, the detention of Aung San Suu Kyi and other civilian officials, and the declaration of a national state of emergency are a direct assault on the country’s transition to democracy and the rule of law,” Biden said in a statement.

Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy party won a landslide 83% in a Nov. 8 election. The army called its takeover a response to election fraud.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken had called on Myanmar military leaders to release Suu Kyi and others detained. Meanwhile, the White House said it opposed any attempt to alter the outcome of Myanmar’s Nov. 8 elections, while vowing “action against those responsible if these steps are not reversed.”

“The United States removed sanctions on Burma (Myanmar) over the past decade based on progress toward democracy. The reversal of that progress will necessitate an immediate review of our sanction laws and authorities, followed by appropriate action,” Biden said in a statement. “The United States will stand up for democracy wherever it is under attack.”

Biden called on the military in Myanmar to lift all restrictions on telecommunications and to refrain from violence against civilians.

It also represented a rare policy alignment between Biden’s fellow Democrats and top Republicans as they joined in denouncing the coup and calling for consequences.

A U.S. official later told Reuters the administration had launched high-level internal discussions aimed at crafting a “whole of government” response and planned to consult closely with Congress.

Analysts cautioned that U.S. leverage was limited.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said on Monday that Biden’s statement is directed at all countries in the region, when asked if it was directed at China.

 Read Biden’s full statement below:

“The military’s seizure of power in Burma, the detention of Aung San Suu Kyi and other civilian officials, and the declaration of a national state of emergency are a direct assault on the country’s transition to democracy and the rule of law. In a democracy, force should never seek to overrule the will of the people or attempt to erase the outcome of a credible election. For almost a decade, the people of Burma have been steadily working to establish elections, civilian governance, and the peaceful transfer of power. That progress should be respected.
 
“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. The United States is taking note of those who stand with the people of Burma in this difficult hour. We will work with our partners throughout the region and the world to support the restoration of democracy and the rule of law, as well as to hold accountable those responsible for overturning Burma’s democratic transition.
 
“The United States removed sanctions on Burma over the past decade based on progress toward democracy. The reversal of that progress will necessitate an immediate review of our sanction laws and authorities, followed by appropriate action.
 
“The United States will stand up for democracy wherever it is under attack.”

President JOSEPH R. Biden

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.

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