President Joe Biden on Monday said his administration is considering resuming sanctions on Myanmar after an apparent military coup in which several key civilian leaders were detained and emergency rule was declared for one year.
“The United States removed sanctions on Burma over the past decade based on progress toward democracy,” Biden said in a statement. “The reversal of that progress will necessitate an immediate review of our sanction laws and authorities, followed by appropriate action.”
The U.S. restricted economic activity with Myanmar, also known as Burma, for decades in response to the country’s undemocratic rule and human rights abuses, though many restrictions were lifted under former President Barack Obama to encourage further democratization.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki also addressed the crisis in Myanmar during a press briefing on Monday.
When asked whether Biden’s statement was a message to China, which has not condemned the coup, Psaki responded, “I think it’s a message to all countries in the region.”
The Biden administration warned on Sunday that the U.S. would “take action” if the military continued along its present course, saying those detained should be released immediately.
The statements come after Myanmar’s military detained several top civilian leaders in the country, including Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, whose party fared well in the November election. Many involved with the coup claimed the election was fraudulent, and the takeover happened just as the parliamentary session was set to begin.
The military takeover is a sharp reversal in the progress that Myanmar has made toward democracy in recent years. Before recent changes, the country had decades of military rule.
From 1962-2011, the U.S. restricted bilateral relations to encourage democratic rule. In late 2016, after consulting with Suu Kyi, the Obama administration lifted many of these sanctions because of progress toward democracy.
Since then, some members of Congress have pushed for more restrictions because of human rights violations. The U.S. put sanctions on the military chief in Myanmar in 2019 over the vicious crackdown on the long-persecuted Rohingya Muslims, in which thousands were killed.
That leader, Min Aung Hlaing, has played a central role in the attempted military takeover.
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