WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden announced Wednesday that his administration will impose U.S. sanctions against leaders of last week’s military coup in Myanmar and called on country immediately return power to the nation’s government.
Mr. Biden’s sanctions target military leaders who directed the coup. The individuals targeted for the sanctions will be identified later this week, the President said in remarks at the Pentagon.
“Today I again call on the Burmese military to immediately release the democratic political leaders and activists,” Biden said. “The military must relinquish power seized and demonstrate respect for the role of the people of Burma as expressed in their November 8th election.”
Myanmar’s military took control of the country on Feb. 1 after arresting the civilian leader and democratically elected Aung San Suu Kyi. The military later announced an internet blackout and restrictions on protesting.
The President said he is blocking Burmese generals from getting access to $1 billion in Myanmar funds being held in the United States.
“We’re freezing U.S. assets that benefit the Burmese government, while maintaining our support for health care, civil society groups and other areas that benefit the people of Burma directly,” Biden said.
Mr. Biden condemned the military takeover last week and Wednesday called for an end to the violence by the military.
“As protests grow, violence against those asserting their democratic rights is unacceptable and we’re going to keep calling it out,” Biden said. “The world is watching and we’ll be ready to impose additional measures.”
There has been concern over the past few weeks that Myanmar was returning to authoritarianism, including the military’s dismissal of Rohingya Muslims. Suu Kyi, who won a a Nobel Peace Prize for her fight for democracy, defended Myanmar against the allegations.
Pentagon spokesman John Kirby last week said, “We certainly have viewed with great alarm what has happened in Burma, but I don’t see a U.S. military role right now.”