Biden announces sanctions targeting Myanmar military leaders to urge them to release detained elected leaders

Biden announces sanctions targeting Myanmar military leaders to urge them to release detained elected leaders
Military soldiers with tanks and police truck block the road near parliament in Naypyidaw in Myanmar on February 1, 2021.Stringer/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
  • Biden announced sanctions against military leaders in Myanmar following their coup.
  • The initial rounds of individuals sanctioned will be announced this week.
  • Biden also called on the military to release officials, including civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

President Joe Biden ordered sanctions against Myanmar's military leaders after a coup earlier this month and called on them to release detained officials, including President Win Myint and civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

"The people of Burma are making their voices heard, and the world is watching," Biden said in a briefing. "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 first round of individuals to be reprimanded will be announced this week, but Biden promised to "immediately sanction the military leaders who directed the coup, their business interests, as well as close family members."

State Department spokesperson Ned Price also said the US would work with other countries to impose "steep and profound costs on those responsible for this coup."

The US formally declared the military takeover as a coup on February 2, which prompted a review of foreign aid to the country, NBC reported.


The military, known as the Tatmadaw, took over on February 1, claiming there was mass voter fraud during the country's November elections. An independent election committee, however, reviewed the claims and found them to be baseless.

Biden's executive order will also limit the military's access to the country's $1 billion in government funds held in the US.

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Additionally, the US said it would freeze assets that help Myanmar's government, but will continue to support "health care, civil society groups, and other areas that benefit the people of Burma directly," Biden said.

While the US has ordered sanctions, Reuters reported that it's unlikely that countries like China, India, Japan, and other Southeast Asian neighbors will impose sanctions on Myanmar.


"The key will not be just what America does," Derek Mitchell, a former US ambassador to Myanmar told Reuters. "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."

Other countries like New Zealand have already condemned the coup and taken diplomatic measures including directing New Zealand's aid program to "not include projects that are delivered with, or benefit, the military government."

The country is also suspending "all high-level political and military contact with Myanmar."

The UN Human Rights Council will hold a special session on the situation in Myanmar on Friday.