Biden Announces Sanctions Targeting Myanmar Military Leaders
Visitors walk through the Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon, Myanmar. (Photographer: Taylor Weidman/Bloomberg)

Biden Announces Sanctions Targeting Myanmar Military Leaders

President Joe Biden said his administration will sanction military leaders in Myanmar linked to this month’s coup and will ensure the country’s military leadership can’t access about $1 billion in government funds held in the U.S.

“I’ve approved a new executive order enabling us to immediately sanction the military leaders who directed the coup, their business interests, as well as close family members,” Biden said in brief remarks on Wednesday before visiting the Pentagon. “We will identify a first round of targets this week and we’re also going to impose strong export controls.”

Biden Announces Sanctions Targeting Myanmar Military Leaders

The sanctions represent the strongest use of punitive measures against a foreign nation since Biden took office last month. Earlier, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said the U.S. has been “in consultation and in close coordination with our partners and allies in steps that will be taken, pressure that can be made” against Myanmar, which is often referred to by its previous name, Burma, in the U.S.

Biden said the U.S. is prepared to “impose additional measures” as needed. The effort seems to be aimed at maximizing the relatively modest leverage the U.S. has over the Southeast Asian nation, which is more closely aligned with China despite opening more to the West about a decade ago. The U.S. has already formally declared the military takeover in Myanmar a coup, prompting a review of foreign assistance.

More Arrests

While military leaders seized Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi and other political leaders earlier this month, several of her aides and high-ranking National League for Democracy party officials were detained in raids overnight, Kyi Toe, a member of its central information committee, said Thursday. Among those detained include former Minister for the Office of the State Counselor Kyaw Tint Swe, and several local election commission officials including Thein Win of Okpo township in Bago region.

“We are really worried that the military will force him to sign documents admitting to voter fraud in the previous election,” said Zaw Ye Htet, the eldest son of Thein Win. “He didn’t do anything wrong.”

Thousands of anti-coup protesters took to the streets for a sixth straight day in defiance of a military ban on large gatherings to demand immediate release of Suu Kyi and other leaders, recognition of the 2020 election results and a withdrawal of the military from politics.

In his remarks Wednesday, Biden said the U.S. will continue support for “health care, civil society groups and other areas that benefit the people of Burma directly.” Many of the officials who orchestrated the coup were also responsible for atrocities committed against Rohingya Muslims and already faced punishment from the U.S., a State Department official told reporters previously.

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