The US has hit Myanmar with a first round of sanctions designed to punish military leaders who seized power in a coup.
President Biden announced Thursday that he is restricting the military’s access to $1billion of funds being held in the US until generals relinquish their grip on power.
He added that business assets of coup leaders and their families are also being identified and will be slapped with additional sanctions in the coming days.
Biden announced the measures as he threw his support behind tens of thousands of protesters who have taken to the streets of the east Asia country every day this week demanding a return to democracy.
Joe Biden has announced a first round of sanctions against military leaders in Myanmar, ten days after they carried out a coup
The move throws US support behind tens of thousands of protesters who have turned out every day this week to demand a return to democracy
Biden called on military leaders to immediately release political prisoners including leader Aung San Suu Kyi (right) and said the ‘will of the people’ must be respected
The sanctions also come after a 19-year-old was left in critical condition when police opened fire on crowds in the capital Naypyidaw with live ammunition.
Biden said: ‘I call on the Burmese military to immediately release the political leaders and activists that they are now detaining, including Aung San Suu Kyi and Win Myint, the president.
‘The military must relinquish the power it seized and show respect for the will of the people of Burma.
‘Violence against those asserting their democratic rights is unacceptable and we’re going to keep calling it out. The people of Burma are making their voices heard and the world is watching.’
Protesters have marched daily in Yangon and Mandalay, the country’s biggest cities.
Large rallies also have been taking place in the capital Naypyitaw and many other cities and towns.
Participants have included factory workers, civil servants, students and teachers, medical personnel and other people from all walks of life.
Protesters wave banners demanding the release of Ms Suu Kyi and accusing China, a long-time ally of their military, of being behind the coup
Demonstrators hold up a banner showing Chinese President Xi Jingping holding coup leader General Min Aung Hlaing like a puppet on a string
Buddhist monks and Catholic clergy have been visible, as have LGBTQ contingents behind rainbow flags.
On Thursday in the southern city of Dawei, protesters wiped their feet and stamped on a poster of Senior Gen. Min Aung Hlaing, the much-scorned coup leader who now heads the ruling junta.
The protesters are demanding that power be restored to the elected government and detained party officials, including ousted leader Aung San Suu Kyi, be freed.
About 200 politicians and activists have been arrested, according to the independent Assistance Association for Political Prisoners.
The junta has shown no signs of backing down and on Wednesday night arrested more senior members of Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy party, along with other politicians and activists.
Also reported to have been taken from their homes were members of the state election commission who certified the landslide victory of Suu Kyi’s party in last November’s election.
The military based its Feb. 1 takeover on allegations the election was marred by irregularities, though the commission found no evidence to support them.
The junta has formed a new commission to investigate the allegations and vows to turn over power to the winners of a new election after a one-year state of emergency.
Demonstrator hold pictures of ousted Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi during a protest against the military coup in Yangon
Members of the LGBT community take part in a demonstration against the coup in Yangon
Protesters hold up three fingers – a symbol of defiance borrowed from the Hunger Games books and used by pro-democracy protesters across Asia – during a march in Yangon
The participation of ethnic minority marchers in Yangon, many dressed in the colorful traditional garb of their regions, underlined the depth and breadth of the opposition to last week’s coup.
While much attention has focused on protests in Myanmar’s major heartland cities, large daily protests have also taken place in the far-flung border areas home to minorities such as the Shan, the Karen, the Kachin, the Kayah and others.
Ethnic minorities have long been the targets of repression by the military, which has used brutal counterinsurgency tactics to crush their decades-long aspirations for greater autonomy.
But the military has not hesitated to employ force in big cities either. Juntas ruled directly for five decades after a 1962 coup, and used lethal force to quash a massive 1988 uprising and a 2007 revolt led by Buddhist monks.
International sanctions long were employed by Western governments in reaction to those crackdowns, but they were eased when elections in 2010 and 2015 showed the country’s tentative steps toward democracy.
At the White House on Wednesday, Biden said he was issuing an executive order that will prevent Myanmar’s generals from accessing $1 billion in assets in the United States.
It remains to be seen what, if any, impact the U.S. action will have on Myanmar’s military regime. Many of the military leaders are already under sanctions because of attacks against the Muslim Rohingya minority.
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