Joe Biden threatens new sanctions against Myanmar following coup

1 February 2021, 22:49

Joe Biden has threatened sanctions against Myanmar
Joe Biden has threatened sanctions against Myanmar. Picture: PA

By Maddie Goodfellow

Joe Biden has threatened new sanctions on Myanmar after a coup saw the military arrest the civilian leaders of its government.

Myanmar has been a US democracy promotion project for decades, though there have been recent and serious concerns about its backsliding into authoritarianism.

Disappointment with former opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyii, who has been detained by the military, has run high.

"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," the US president said in a statement.

"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."

Protestors and police have clashed in Myanmar
Protestors and police have clashed in Myanmar. Picture: PA

He noted that the US had removed sanctions on Myanmar after its transition to democracy but it would not hesitate to restore them.

"The reversal of that progress will necessitate an immediate review of our sanction laws and authorities, followed by appropriate action," Mr Biden said.

"The United States will stand up for democracy wherever it is under attack."

Ms Suu Kyi and other leaders were taken into custody in the early hours of Monday, with military TV claiming power had been handed over to commander-in-chief Min Aung Hlaing because of "election fraud".

On Monday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson criticised the "unlawful imprisonment of civilians".

He tweeted: "I condemn the coup and unlawful imprisonment of civilians, including Aung San Suu Kyi, in Myanmar.

"The vote of the people must be respected and civilian leaders released."

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab added on Twitter: "The UK condemns the state of emergency in Myanmar and the unlawful detention of figures in the Civilian Government and civil society by the military.

"The democratically expressed wishes of the people of Myanmar must be respected, and the National Assembly peacefully re-convened."

A Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office spokesperson said: “Today the Myanmar Ambassador, Kyaw Zwar Minn, was summoned to the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office. The Minister for Asia, Nigel Adams, condemned the military coup and unlawful imprisonment of civilians, including Aung San Suu Kyi. Minister Adams requested assurances of the safety of all those detained and called for their immediate release.

“The Minister for Asia made clear the democratic wishes of the people of Myanmar must be respected, and the National Assembly peacefully re-convened. He also said that the UK would work with like-minded partners and pursue all necessary diplomatic levers to ensure a peaceful return to democracy.”

It comes after days of rising tensions between the civilian government and the army over the disputed elections.

Myanmar - also known as Burma - was controlled by the military before reforms in 2011 established a government.

An announcer on military-owned Myawaddy TV made the declaration on Monday morning, following days of concern about the threat of a military coup as Myanmar's new parliament session was about to begin.

The Irrawaddy, an established online news service, reported Ms Suu Kyi, the nation's top leader, and the country's president, Win Myint, were detained in the pre-dawn hours of Monday. The news service cited Myo Nyunt, a spokesman for Ms Suu Kyi's ruling National League for Democracy party.

That report said the party's Central Executive Committee members, legislators and regional cabinet members had also been taken into custody.

Phone and internet access to the capital Naypyitaw was lost amid the reported coup.