US President Joe Biden called on military officials in Myanmar on Thursday to return power to democratically-elected officials after the armed forces seized control and accused officials of committing election fraud.
"There can be no doubt, in a democracy, force should never seek to overrule the will of the people or attempt to erase the outcome of a credible election," Biden said in his first major foreign policy speech.
— ABC News (@ABC) February 4, 2021
"The Burmese [Myanmar] military should relinquish power they have seized, release the advocates, activists and officials they have detained, lift the restrictions on telecommunications, and refrain from violence."
Should Myanmar military officials refuse to fall in line, Biden warned that the US would "impose consequences on those responsible" for preventing the democratic will of the country's people.
Additionally, Biden indicated that he has been in "close" contact with American allies, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) to address the Monday coup.
The newly sworn-in president's remarks came two days after the State Department officially recognized that the Myanmar military's detention of civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi and President Win Myint constituted a coup.
The designation prompts the US to curtail its assistance to the Myanmar government; however, humanitarian aid and programs to support civil society will continue.
The Monday coup unfolded a day before the country's parliament was expected to swear-in members elected during the 2020 general election, which saw an overwhelming majority of National League of Democracy candidates beat out the military-backed party.
Echoing sentiments voiced during the contested US election, the Myanmar military promptly claimed that widespread irregularities on voter lists led to election fraud; however, the allegation was subsequently ruled out after officials determined that there was no evidence to support the claims.
The Myanmar military has since indicated that its action are legally justified since the country's constitution calls for military takeovers during times of emergency. Military officials cite the government's failure to thoroughly investigate the allegations as a reason for its takeover.
Both Suu Kyi and the Myanmar president are expected to remain in custody until at least February 15, NPR reported. The pair were detained along with a variety of top government officials. Most recently, authorities charged Suu Kyi with possessing illegally imported walkie-talkies in a move to give legal grounds for her detainment.
Myanmar was previously under military rule for multiple decades and only within the last 10 years began making progress toward democracy. At present, power of Myanmar has been handed to Min Aung Hlaing, who has served as the commander of the armed forces since 2011.