US President Joe Biden on Monday threatened to reimpose sanctions on Myanmar following a coup by the country’s military leaders and called for a concerted international response to push them to relinquish power.
Biden on Monday condemned the military takeover of the civilian government and his detention of the country’s elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi as “a direct attack on the country’s transition to democracy and the rule of law.”
Myanmar Crisis Marks First Main Test of Biden’s Commitment to Collaborate More with Allies on International Challenges, Particularly China’s Growing Influence, Unlike the ‘America First’ Approach of his predecessor Donald Trump.
The coup also brought a rare political alignment between Biden’s Democrats and mainstream Republicans as they denounced the military takeover and called for consequences.
“The international community should come together with one voice to pressure the Burmese military to immediately relinquish the power it has seized, release the activists and officials they have detained,” Biden said in a press release.
“The United States has lifted sanctions against Burma over the past decade on the basis of progress towards democracy. Reversing this progress will require an immediate review of our sanctions laws and authorities, followed by appropriate action, ”he said.
Biden warned that the United States “is taking note of those who support the Burmese people at this difficult time.”
“We will work with our partners across the region and around the world to support the restoration of democracy and the rule of law, as well as to empower those responsible for reversing the democratic transition in Burma,” he said. declared.
A US official later told Reuters news agency that the administration had launched high-level internal talks aimed at crafting a “whole-of-government” response and planned to consult Congress closely.
Impunity for actions?
Greg Poling and Simon Hudes of the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington said there would almost certainly be new sanctions against those involved in the coup.
“But this is unlikely to have an immediate impact on the generals,” they said, given that few of them intended to travel or do business in the United States.
Moreover, unlike its reaction to a 2014 coup in Thailand, the United States cannot reverse military exercises, training and sales, as military-to-military relations with Myanmar are almost non-existent, they declared.
Former President Barack Obama started easing sanctions on Myanmar in 2011 after the military began to loosen its grip, and in 2016 lifted many remaining restrictions. In 2019, the Trump administration imposed targeted sanctions on four military commanders, including coup leader Gen. Min Aung Hlaing, over allegations of abuse against Rohingya Muslims and other minorities.
Human rights groups have said the international community must recognize the gaps in their engagement during Myanmar’s democratic transition and take tougher steps to bring the military under control.
“The Tatmadaw exposed the vast vulnerabilities of Myanmar’s democratic institutions by staging this brazen coup,” said Akila Radhakrishnan, president of the Global Justice Center.
“Given the history of the military regime, the risk of violence and ensuing atrocities is greater than any time in recent memory. We cannot ignore the repeated failure of the international community to take concerted action to reduce military might and hold it accountable for its continued human rights violations, including its genocidal campaign against the Rohingya.
As the leader of the country, Aung San Suu Kyi defended his nation to the International Court of Justice in The Hague in 2019 against charges of genocide in the treatment of predominantly Muslim Rohingya after at least 740,000 fled western Rakhine state following a brutal military crackdown in 2017 .
Observers say armed forces continue to engage abuse in Rakhine and in other ethnic minority areas of the country.
The Human Rights Documentation Network – Burma (ND-Burma) said an emergency meeting at the United Nations Security Council should be called, with a delegation to be sent to Myanmar.
“Members must approach the current situation in Myanmar with more force and effectiveness than in the past,” ND-Burma said in a statement.
The 15-member Security Council plans to discuss Myanmar in a private meeting on Tuesday, diplomats said.
“We want to face the long-term threats to peace and security, of course working closely with Myanmar’s Asia and ASEAN neighbors,” the British Ambassador told reporters in UN Barbara Woodward, chair of the board for February.
Wai Wai Nu, founder and director of the Women’s Peace Network and a Rohingya activist, said on Tuesday civil society wanted a “bolder” international response to the coup, including referral to the ICC, immediate sanctions against the coup. army and its companies, and a global arms embargo on the country.
The response from China and Russia, which as permanent members have veto power on the council will be key to any action. In 2017, their support protected Myanmar from any significant movement in response to the Rohingya crackdown.
“We hope that any initiative by the Council will promote stability in Myanmar rather than complicate the situation,” said a spokesperson for the Chinese UN mission.
Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy party won a landslide victory in the country’s November 8 elections, but the military, which is guaranteed a quarter of the seats in parliament and also has a party by proxy, cried scandal.
He claimed on Monday that his takeover was a response to electoral fraud, although there was no evidence of wrongdoing, and his actions were justified under the 2008 constitution drafted by the forces armies.
“For years, world leaders have praised a ‘democratic’ transition and constitution that gave the military the very power they used to stage today’s coup Added Radhakrishnan of the Global Justice Center. “Now we see the consequences of an international order that blinds itself to reality in the interest of ‘progress’ and economic investment instead of protecting human rights.”
“ Intensive ” consultations
White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki told a regular press briefing that Washington had had “intensive” conversations with its allies. She declined to say what other actions were being considered apart from the sanctions.
Psaki said Biden’s remark that the United States was “taking note” of the reaction of other countries was “a message to all countries in the region.”
Senior Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Robert Menendez said Washington and other countries “should impose tough economic sanctions, as well as other measures” against Myanmar’s military and military leaders. ‘they did not release the country’s elected leaders and did not withdraw. of the government.
He also accused the Myanmar military of being guilty of “genocide” against minority Rohingya Muslims – a determination that has yet to be expressed by the US government – and of a sustained campaign of violence against it. ‘other minorities.
US Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, who, like members of the Biden administration, had close ties to Suu Kyi, called the arrests “horrific” and said Washington must “impose costs” to those behind the coup.
“The Biden administration must take a strong stand and our partners and all democracies around the world should do the same to condemn this authoritarian attack on democracy,” he said.
Events in Myanmar pose a major challenge for the Biden administration and its efforts to forge a robust Asia-Pacific policy to stand up to China.
Many of Biden’s Asian policy team, including his leader, Kurt Campbell, are veterans of the Obama administration, who, on stepping down in 2016, praised his work to end decades of military rule in Myanmar as a major achievement of foreign policy. Biden was then Obama’s vice president.