Buddhist monks walk past Sule pagoda in Yangon, Myanmar February 1. (Image: Reuters)
The US on Thursday slapped sanctions on 10 current and former military officers and three entities in Myanmar who led the recent coup against the democratically elected government and detained its leaders Aung San Suu Kyi and Win Myint.
Six of the individuals are part of the National Defense and Security Council and were directly involved in the coup -- Commander-in-Chief of the Burmese military forces Min Aung Hlaing, Deputy Commander-in-Chief Soe Win, First Vice President and retired Lieutenant General Myint Swe, Lieutenant General Sein Win, Lieutenant General Soe Htut, and Lieutenant General Ye Aung.
The four others slapped with sanctions are General Mya Tun Oo who was appointed Minister of Defense, Admiral Tin Aung San who was appointed Minister for Transport and Communications, Lieutenant General Ye Win Oo who was appointed Joint Secretary of the State Administration Council (SAC), and Lieutenant General Aung Lin Dwe who was appointed Secretary of the SAC.
In addition, three Burmese entities, Myanmar Ruby Enterprise, Myanmar Imperial Jade Co and Cancri (Gems and Jewellery), are being slapped with American sanctions.
"These designations specifically target current or former members of the military who played a leading role in the overthrow of Burma's democratically elected government. They do not target the economy or people of Burma, and we have gone to great lengths to ensure we do not add to the humanitarian plight of the Burmese people," US Secretary of State Tony Blinken said.
On February 1, prior to the scheduled seating of Burma's newly elected Parliament, the military detained a broad cross-section of civilian government leadership, including State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi and President Win Myint, civil society leaders, journalists, and human right activists.
"We have been clear: this was a coup, and we will not sit idly by. This coup attempts to reject the will of the people of Burma as expressed during the November 2020 election. Since February 1, the people of Burma have shown their commitment to democracy through peaceful protest and civil disobedience. The United States stands with them, Blinken said.
Additionally, as the President announced, the US government has also taken steps to prevent the generals from improperly accessing more than USD1 billion in Burmese government funds held in the United States, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki told reporters at her daily news conference.
The Department of Commerce is also taking immediate action to limit exports of sensitive goods to the Burmese military and other entities associated with the recent coup, she said.
"In addition, we're freezing US assistance that benefits the Burmese government, while maintaining our support for healthcare, civil society groups, and other areas that benefit the Burmese people directly. We will also continue our support for the Rohingya and other vulnerable populations," Psaki said.
The White House in a separate statement said that the sanctions announced by it need not be permanent. Burma's military should immediately restore power to the democratically elected government, end the state of emergency, release all those unjustly detained, and ensure peaceful protesters are not met with violence.
The results of Burma's November 8 elections must be respected, and Parliament should be convened at the earliest opportunity, it asserted.
"The United States will continue to work with our allies, partners, and international organisations as we condemn the actions of the Burmese military, and call for the immediate restoration of democracy. We view this coup as a direct assault on the country's transition to democracy, the White House said.
The White House said President Joe Biden has also spoken about Burma directly with leaders in the region, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Xi Jinping from China. We remain in close contact with like-minded nations, and welcome statements from the G7, ASEAN and several of Burma's neighbours that have strongly condemned the actions of the Burmese military, it said.
"We are also prepared to take additional action should Burma's military not change course. If there is more violence against peaceful protesters, the Burmese military will find that today's sanctions are just the first," Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said.
The Department of Commerce's Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) said that effective immediately, it will apply a presumption of denial for items requiring a licence for export and re-export to these select Burmese government departments and agencies.
"The military coup in Burma is a direct assault on Burma's transition to democracy and the rule of law. By taking immediate action to prevent the Burmese military from benefiting from access to sensitive US technology, we are sending a direct message that the United States stands with the people of Burma and their lawful democratic institutions," the Department of Commerce said.
USAID said that it is immediately redirecting USD 42.4 million of assistance away from work that would have benefited the Government of Burma. "Rather than supporting the military, we will redirect these funds to support and strengthen civil society, said USAID Acting Director Gloria Steele.
In a joint statement, a bipartisan group of influential Senators Marco Rubio, Ed Markey, Jim Risch and Ben Cardin applaud the Biden administration's decision to impose targeted sanctions against Burma's military leaders.