By Aamer Madhani, AP
The Biden administration announced Thursday that new sanctions against Myanmar will target the country’s top military officials who ordered this month’s coup in the Southeast Asian country.
The sanctions name top military commander Min Aung Hlaing and his deputy Soe Win, as well as four members of the State Administration Council. The executive order signed by President Joe Biden also allows the Treasury Department to target the spouses and adult children of those being sanctioned.
The move will prevent the generals from accessing more than $1 billion in Myanmar government funds held in the United States. The sanctions also will affect the Myanmar Ruby Enterprise and Myanmar Imperial Jade Co., businesses controlled by the regime.
“Today’s sanctions need not be permanent,” the White House said in a statement. “Burma’s military should immediately restore power to the democratically elected government, end the state of emergency, release all those unjustly detained, and ensure peaceful protestors are not met with violence.”
The military cited the government’s failure to act on unsubstantiated allegations of widespread voter fraud as part of the reason for the Feb. 1 takeover of the government and declaration of a one-year state of emergency. The generals maintain the actions are legally justified, and have cited an article in the constitution that allows the military to take over in times of emergency.
President Win Myint, de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi and other civilian officials were arrested in what Biden administration said earlier this month was a coup. The declaration set the stage for the administration to levy the new sanctions.
It remains to be seen what, if any, impact the sanctions will have. Many of the military leaders are already under sanctions because of attacks against the Muslim Rohingya minority.
To that end, Biden is trying to muster global pressure. Biden discussed the situation with China’s President Xi Jinping during a broad-ranging two-hour conversation on Wednesday and with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi earlier this week.
The White House also announced that USAID is redirecting $42.4 million of assistance that had been slated for Myanmar, funding that was intended to support efforts to overhaul the nation’s economic policy, as well as programs that support civil society and the private sector.
USAID, however, is keeping in place $69 million to support health care, food security, independent media, and peace and reconciliation efforts.