Joe Biden had threatened Myanmar with new sanctions after the military in the country performed a coup and arrested its elected leaders.
On Monday, moments before the new government – including the Nobel laureate and de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi and President Win Myint – was about to take office after winning the election, the military has performed a coup and arrested the democratic leaders.
The military junta and its leaders, who believe that the election was stolen, have since appointed former general Myint Swe as acting president and declared a state of emergency. The junta has also ordered the closure of all banks.
Speaking of the military coup and the assault on the people’s will in Burma, President Biden vowed to stand up for democracy wherever it is under attack.
“The military’s seizure of power in Burma, the detention of Aung San Suu Kyi and other civilian officials, and the declaration of a national state of emergency are a direct assault on the country’s transition to democracy and the rule of law,” Biden said in an official statement published on the White House website.
“In a democracy, force should never seek to overrule the will of the people or attempt to erase the outcome of a credible election. 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.
“The international community should come together in one voice to press the Burmese 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.
“The United States is taking note of those who stand with the people of Burma 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.
“The United States removed sanctions on Burma over the past decade based on progress toward democracy. The reversal of that progress will necessitate an immediate review of our sanction laws and authorities, followed by appropriate action.
“The United States will stand up for democracy wherever it is under attack.”
In his statement, Biden referred to the country as Burma rather than Myanmar in a clear show of disapproval of the military leaders behind the coup.
Burma was renamed Myanmar back in 1989 by the then-ruling military junta. The new name, however, has not been accepted by all countries because the government wasn’t democratically elected.
In 2010, following five decades of military rule in the country, partial elections in Burma signaled the beginning of a new political age, whereas full elections in 2015 resulted in a partial transfer of power to Suu Kyi’s party.
At the time, however, the power was shared with the military.
Following the elections last year, even more power was promised to Suu Kyi’s party, further widening the gap between the democratic leaders and the military that began facing threats of being stripped of its longtime power and influence in the country’s political system.
Insisting that the election was fraudulent, the military on Monday staged a coup and arrested elected leaders just hours before they were about to be sworn in.
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