Biden Imposes Sanctions on Myanmar Military Leaders Who Directed Coup

February 10, 2021 by Dan McCue
A cyclist bikes past a signboard with an image of Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi, in Yangon, Myanmar Friday, Jan. 29, 2021. Myanmar's election commission rejected allegations by the military that fraud played a significant role in determining the outcome of November's elections, which delivered a landslide victory to Aung San Suu Kyi's ruling party. (AP Photo/Thein Zaw)

WASHINGTON – President Joe Biden announced Wednesday that he is imposing sanctions on military leaders in Myanmar who directed the coup that deposed and detained its elected leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, President Win Myint, and several other individuals.

Speaking to reporters in the South Court Auditorium of the Eisenhower Executive Office Building at the White House, Biden said the United States will “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 exports controls,” Biden said.

He went on to say Myanmar’s military leaders “must relinquish” the power they seized last week and to release their prisoners.

The Burmese military has accused Suu Kyi’s government of failing to act on its complaints that last November’s election was marred by fraud, though the election commission said it had found no evidence to support the claims.

The ruling National League for Democracy party captured 396 out of 476 seats in the Nov. 8 election, allowing it to form a government led by State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi for another five years.

The military-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party won only 33 seats.

It has since complained of electoral fraud and called on the government and the Union Election Commission to review the results. The military claims it has found 8.6 million irregularities in voter lists in 314 townships that could have let voters cast multiple ballots or commit other “voting malpractice.”

Days before the coup, Senior Gen. Min Aung Hlaing, the nation’s commander-in-chief, told senior officers that the constitution could be revoked if the laws were not being properly enforced.

Within hours, armored vehicles were deployed in the streets of several large cities.

Since the coup, tens of thousands have marched all across the country to protest the ousting of Suu Kyi’s elected government.

Suu Kyi won a landslide election in 2015. Her administration was the first led by civilians in decades, though it faced a number of curbs to its power under a military-drafted constitution.

The executive order President Biden signed Wednesday will bar Burmese generals from getting access to $1 billion in Myanmar funds being held in banks in the United States.

Biden is also freezing U.S. assets that benefit the Burmese government, “while maintaining our support for health care, civil society groups and other areas that benefit the people of Burma directly,” he said, using another name for Myanmar.

Before heading over to the Pentagon, where he and Vice President Kamala Harris were previously scheduled to address Defense Department personnel, Biden also called on the military to refrain from using violence against protestors speaking out against the coup.

During Myanmar’s years of isolation under military rule, the golden-domed Sule Pagoda, in the heart of downtown Yangon, Myanmar, served as a rallying point for political protests calling for democracy, most notably during a massive 1988 uprising and again during a 2007 revolt led by Buddhist monks.

The military used deadly force to end both of those uprisings, with estimates of hundreds if not thousands killed in 1988. 

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