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

Myanmar Coup
Military soldiers with tanks and police truck block the road near parliament in Naypyidaw in Myanmar on February 1, 2021.

  • 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.
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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. 

 

 

 

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China and Russia blocked the UN from condemning Myanmar’s military coup

Armoured personnel carriers are seen on the streets of Mandalay on February 3, 2021, as calls for a civil disobedience gather pace following a military coup which saw civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi being detained. (Photo by STR / AFP) (Photo by STR/AFP via Getty Images)
Armored military vehicles in Mandalay, Myanmar, on February 3, 2021.

  • China and Russia blocked the UN Security Council from condemning the Myanmar coup.
  • Myanmar’s military detained politicians and imposed a state of emergency on Monday.
  • China has close ties to Myanmar, and its state media called the coup a “cabinet reshuffle.”
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China and Russia have blocked the UN from condemning the ongoing military coup in Myanmar

The 15-member UN Security Council met on Tuesday to vote on a joint statement after Myanmar military chief Min Aung Hlaing on Monday seized control of the country, detaining hundreds of lawmakers including President Win Myint and the de facto head of government Aung San Suu Kyi.

The coup followed the November 2020 election that the military claims was fraudulent, with the military imposing a year-long state of emergency.

The Myanmar police, which operates under the military, charged Suu Kyi with breaching import laws and using illegal communication devices – walkie-talkies – on Wednesday, the BBC reported. The police also charged Win Myint with violating COVID-19 rules, per the BBC.

The UN statement sought to “condemn the military coup” and call on the military to “immediately release those unlawfully detained,” according to a draft seen by Politico.

However, the council was unable to issue that statement as UN ambassadors from China and Russia said they would need the respective blessings of Beijing and Moscow before agreeing, the Associated Press reported.

“China and Russia have asked for more time,” a diplomat told Agency France-Presse.

As permanent members of the UN Security Council, China and Russia are able to veto or delay the body’s activities.

FILE PHOTO: The United Nations Security Council meets about the situation in Syria at United Nations Headquarters in the Manhattan borough of New York City, New York, U.S., February 28, 2020. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri/File Photo
The UN Security Council seen in New York City in February 2020.

Issuing a joint statement is the first step to enforcing sanctions and Sherine Tadros, the deputy director of advocacy at Amnesty International, told the AP the council needs to act.

“The Security Council must also impose a comprehensive global arms embargo on Myanmar, and crucially, refer the situation in Myanmar to the International Criminal Court,” Tadros said, adding that the council should freeze Min Aung Hlaing’s assets.

Nations can enforce sanctions on Myanmar themselves, but for the UN to issue one takes a resolution, which looks unlikely given China and Russia’s reticence.

On Tuesday, the US State Department officially labelled the takeover as a “coup,” meaning it cannot offer help to the new military regime. The US is a permanent member of the UN Security Council.

Read more: The ultimate guide to Joe Biden’s White House staff

On the ground in Myanmar, people are expressing their outrage.

Local activists launched the “Civil Disobedience Movement” on Facebook on Tuesday, AFP reported, adding that as of Wednesday morning it had amassed nearly 150,000 followers.

Doctors and nurses at 70 hospitals across the country also stopped working in protest of the military coup.

A ‘cabinet reshuffle’

China has a long history of defending Myanmar, and has been reticent to label the takeover as a “coup.”

China is Myanmar’s largest trading partner, owning major oil and gas pipelines in the country, and is currently working on establishing the “China-Myanmar Economic Corridor.” 

“China is a friendly neighbor of Myanmar’s,” Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said Monday, Reuters reported.

“We hope that all sides in Myanmar can appropriately handle their differences under the constitution and legal framework and safeguard political and social stability.”

On Monday the state-run Xinhua news agency referred to the coup as a “cabinet reshuffle.”

While many nations shunned Myanmar when it was a military dictatorship between 1962 and 2011, China stood by it and has also cultivated healthy ties with Suu Kyi since she became leader in 2015.

China defended Myanmar and Suu Kyi as they faced of allegations of genocide. Suu Kyi is accused of driving at least 740,000 Rohingya Muslims out of the country since August 2017, according to Human Rights Watch.

In late January 2020, the UN’s International Court of Justice ruled that Myanmar must “take all measures” to prevent the genocide of the ethnic minority.

That same month, China said that it “firmly supports Myanmar’s efforts to safeguard its legitimate rights and interests and national dignity in the international arena,” AFP reported.

Russia and China have blocked UN actions regarding Myanmar in the past, having in 2007 vetoed a UN draft resolution that called on the country’s military regime at the time to release political prisoners and stop violating human rights.

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Trump supporters falsely claim a far-right activist at the US Capitol is actually a member of ‘Antifa’

Qanon shaman viking riot capitol
Jake Angeli, the “Q Shaman,” was one of several protesters to confront Capitol police officers at the US Capitol on January 6, 2021, in Washington, DC. – Demonstrators breached security and entered the Capitol as Congress debated the a 2020 presidential election Electoral Vote Certification.

  • Jake Angeli, an infamous far-right activist from Arizona, was pictured as part of the mob that assaulted the US Capitol on Wednesday.
  • On social media, other far-right activists tried to claim he was actually a liberal or part of “Antifa.”
  • They did so by posting a photo of him at a Black Lives Matter protest in Tempe, Arizona, neglecting the fact that he was counter-protesting.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Jake Angeli is a far-right activist who loves Donald Trump and appearing in public without a shirt and posing as a viking.

On far-right social media, however, the man from Arizona — pictured with a mob of Trump supporters at the US Capitol on Wednesday — is being falsely portrayed as a supporter of a Black Lives Matter, a movement he opposes, as part of a conspiracy theory, stoked by at least one Fox News anchor, that blames the violence in Washington on anti-fascists.

“Paid actor and was at the BLM march in Arizona last year,” one man claimed on Twitter.

“This ‘patriot’ led the way in the DC Riot,” claimed the administrator of a far-right Facebook group in New Mexico.

“This guy is from Arizona. Here is a photo I took of him at the Temple BLM march in June,” another woman tweeted, quoting a left-wing Arizona activist, her post retweeted some 18,000 times and receiving over 27,000 likes.

Screenshot_2021 01 06 Cari Kelemen on Twitter
Far-right activists on Twitter are claiming one of their own is actually Antifa.

Angeli was indeed at a Black Lives Matter protest. The problem for far-right conspiracy theorists is that he was there to protest the protest. Indeed, he is a crank himself.

As the Arizona Republic reported, the 32-year-old Angeli is “a QAnon supporter who has been a fixture at Arizona right-wing political rallies over the past year.” Back home, he is a fixture at the Arizona State Capitol building, “shouting about various conspiracy theories.”

As Insider’s Rachel E. Greenspan noted earlier in the day, that dedication has earned him the moniker, “Q Shaman.” Antifa he is not.

The episode could be dismissed with a laugh, had the broader claim – that Antifa was responsible rather than the president’s own supporters – not already being introduced into mainstream discourse by members of Congress, such as Rep. Matt Gaetz, who was applauded by House Republicans for his conspiratorial deflection.

Kate Starbird, an expert on disinformation at the University of Washington, explained what’s coming on the far right: “They’ll ask their followers to ignore what they saw with their own eyes (and some of what they experienced and perpetrated themselves)… and believe another alternative reality.” 

Have a news tip? Email this reporter: cdavis@insider.com

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