Thursday, February 18, 2021

Biden approves sanctions on Myanmar generals, calls for firm response from Asian nations

The US says it is vital to get Japan, India, Singapore and Myanmar's Southeast Asian neighbours involved in a strong response.

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US President Joe Biden announced on Wednesday he has approved new sanctions on military coup leaders in Myanmar and he repeated his demands for the generals to give up power and free civilian leaders, Reuters is reporting.

Biden said the order enabled his administration “to immediately sanction the military leaders who directed the coup, their business interests as well as close family members”.

He said Washington would identify the first round of targets this week and was taking steps to prevent the generals in Myanmar having access to US$1 billion in Myanmar government funds held in the US.

“We’re maintaining our support for health care, civil society groups, and other areas that benefit the people of Burma directly,” Biden said. “We’ll be ready to impose additional measures, and we’ll continue to work with our international partners to urge other nations to join us in these efforts.”

The Feb 1 coup, which overthrew elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi’s civilian-led government, occurred less than two weeks after Biden took office and presented him with his first major international crisis.

Other Western countries have condemned the coup, but analysts say Myanmar’s military will not be as isolated as it was in the past, with China, India, Southeast Asian neighbours and Japan unlikely to cut ties given the country’s strategic importance.

Derek Mitchell, a former US ambassador to Mynamar, said it was vital to get nations such as Japan, India and Singapore involved in a strong response.

“The key will not be just what America does,” he said. “It’s going to be how we get others along with us, allies who may have more skin in the game, more leverage, or at least better relationships with the key players.”

The United Nations’ top human rights body is to consider a resolution on Friday drafted by Britain and the European Union condemning the coup and demanding urgent access for monitors.

However, diplomats said China and Russia, who both have ties to Myanmar’s armed forces, are expected to raise objections.

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