US President Joe Biden announced Wednesday that his administration would be imposing sanctions against several military leaders in Myanmar after soldiers recently detained government officials and placed the country under the command of the armed forces.
Biden noted that his administration will be placing a freeze on $1 billion in government funds that Myanmar currently holds within the US, with similar steps being taken on other assets that aid the Southeast Asian country.
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"Today, I have 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 during a news conference. "We will identify the first round of targets this week and we're also going to impose strong exports control."
"As protests grow, violence against those asserting their democratic rights is unacceptable and we're going to keep calling it out. The people of Burma are making their voices heard and the world is watching," he added.
Biden noted that "additional measures" may be imposed in the days to come after calling for the release of activists and political leaders, including civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi.
Latest remarks by Biden came over a week after the US Department of State officially recognized that the Myanmar military's detention of Suu Kyi and President Win Myint constituted a coup. Following Biden's remarks, US State Department spokesperson Ned Price told reporters that the agency believes "we can certainly impose substantial costs on those who are responsible for this."
"We can impose costs that are ... even steeper" than sanctions that were previously imposed against the country, he noted.
The president previously indicated that he was working alongside US allies and lawmakers, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) in order to determine best responses to the early February coup. Biden first signaled during his February 4 address on the matter that "consequences" would befall individuals who orchestrated the coup.
The recent coup unfolded a day before the country's parliament was due to swear-in multiple individuals who had been elected during the 2020 general election.
Military leaders have explained the coup was justified under the country's constitution because the government failed to thoroughly investigate allegations of voter fraud that surfaced after candidates from the National League of Democracy party beat out individuals from the military-backed party.
In response to the military takeover, tens of thousands of people have participated in protests; however, demonstrations have turned violent after police earlier this week fired gunshots and used rubber bullets and water cannons to disperse crowds.
In an effort to squash demonstrations, the military has banned rallies and gatherings of more than five individuals. Additionally, a curfew has been imposed in cities Yangon and Mandalay, and military leadership ordered internet service providers and mobile operators to impose a ban on social media platforms Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.
Myanmar remains under the control of Min Aung Hlaing, the commander of the country's armed forces since 2011.
The general held his first national address on Monday and reiterated that the government failed to look into alleged election irregularities, which the election commission had previously indicated there was no evidence to back the claims. He also indicated that new elections would be held, and that a new "reformed" election commission would oversee procedures.
The military commander did not provide a timeframe for the elections, but did note that the military would ensure a "true and disciplined democracy" different from past military rules.