President Joe Biden announced sanctions on Myanmar Wednesday, urging that nation’s military to release elected leaders who were detained in a coup earlier this month.
The new sanctions on Myanmar, which is also commonly referred to as Burma, will target military leaders, their business interests and close family members.
“We will identify a first round of targets this week,” Biden said.
The new executive order also will limit the Burmese military’s access to $1 billion of Myanmar government funds held in the United States.
In addition to those measures, the U.S. will add “strong export controls,” Biden said, noting that the sanctions would be careful to not hinder support of “health care, civil society groups, and other areas that benefit the people of Burma directly.”
State Department spokesperson Ned Price confirmed later Wednesday that Biden would implement the sanctions via executive order this week. "The cost for their antidemocratic action will be steep," he said.
The Biden administration has been in constant communication with partners in Europe and Asia to coordinate efforts and will use its new engagement in the U.N. Human Rights Council to promote democracy in Myanmar.
Biden indicated that more action could be taken to continue pressuring the military coup to relinquish power.
This comes after the United States classified the military takeover in Myanmar as a coup, resulting in restricting aid to the country.
Even after that determination was made, the State Department said it was conducting a more thorough review of potential actions.
The U.S. began publicly considering action after Myanmar’s military detained several democratically elected leaders in the county, including Aung San Suu Kyi, whose party did well in a November election. Military leaders claimed the election was fraudulent, and Kyi and other civilian leaders were detained just as the parliamentary session was set to begin.
The military takeover is a sharp reversal from Myanmar’s movement toward democracy in recent years after decades of military rule.
From 1962-2011, the U.S. restricted bilateral relations to push for democratic rule. After talking with Suu Kyi in 2016, the Obama administration lifted many of these sanctions because of movement toward democracy.
Since then, some members of Congress have pushed for more restrictions because of human rights violations in the country. The U.S. put sanctions on the military chief in Myanmar in 2019 over human rights abuses of the ethnic Rohingya minority group. That military chief, Min Aung Hlaing, has played a central role in the recent military takeover.
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