Joe Biden threatens sanctions as Myanmar coup is ‘assault on transition to democracy’

Joe Biden has criticised the military coup in Myanmar, calling it a “direct assault on the country’s transition to democracy and the rule of law”.

The US president hit out after
troops seized power, detained civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi along with other senior officials, and declared a one-year national state of emergency, following her party’s landslide election win last year.

Mr Biden has threatened to impose fresh sanctions – after they were removed during the past decade because of progress that had been made towards democracy.

In a statement, he said: “In a democracy, force should never seek to overrule the will of the people or attempt to erase the outcome of a credible election.”

The UN has also condemned the coup and the security council will meet later today to discuss the situation and what coordinated action might be taken.

Britain has summoned Myanmar’s ambassador in London after Boris Johnson also condemned the coup.

The prime minister said: “The vote of the people must be respected and civilian leaders released.”

The UK’s Foreign Office told the ambassador Kyaw Zwar Minn that “the UK would work with like-minded partners and pursue all necessary diplomatic levers to ensure a peaceful return to democracy”.

It has warned about possible disruption to ATMs and advised British nationals in the country to “stay home and stay safe”.

The new military rulers, who said they had responded to what they called election fraud, claim they will be in charge for 12 months before free and fair elections when they would hand power to the winners.

In an election on 8 November 2020, Ms Suu Kyi’s ruling National League for Democracy (NLD) party won 83% of votes while the military-backed party did badly.

She has been popular in the country for standing against decades of junta rule and became its de facto leader after the NLD won elections in 2015.

Monday was supposed to be the first day of a new session of parliament.

The military claimed widespread irregularities on voter lists could have led to fraud in November, though the election commission said there was no evidence to support those allegations.

Army chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, who had faced imminent retirement after Ms Suu Kyi’s landslide result, is now in full charge of the country.

The NLD said Ms Suu Kyi had called on people to protest against the military takeover.

Mr Biden said: “For almost a decade, the people of Burma have been steadily working to establish elections, civilian governance, and the peaceful transfer of power. That progress should be respected.”

He called on the international community to “press the military to immediately relinquish the power they have seized, release the activists and officials they have detained, lift all telecommunications restrictions, and refrain from violence against civilians”.

He said: “The United States is taking note of those who stand with the people of Burma ( Myanmar ) in this difficult hour.

“We will work with our partners throughout the region and the world to support the restoration of democracy and the rule of law, as well as to hold accountable those responsible for overturning Burma’s democratic transition.”

He added: “The United States will stand up for democracy wherever it is under attack.”

The United Nations fears the coup will worsen the situation for hundreds of thousands of Rohingya Muslims still in the country’s Rakhine state after the military carried out a violent crackdown in 2016.

UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said: “There are about 600,000 Rohingya those that remain in Rakhine State, including 120,000 people who are effectively confined to camps, they cannot move freely and have extremely limited access to basic health and education services.
“So our fear is that the events may make the situation worse for them.”

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