Joe Biden has turned the screws against the generals in Myanmar with a fresh cache of sanctions against the military regime which staged a coup on February 1 and arrested Aung San Suu Kyi and other senior politicians. The bold action by the United States has been announced in parallel with the spectacular people’s protests that were ratcheted up in Yangon and Mandalay, the two largest cities, on Wednesday.
In the net, the American President has signaled an exceptionally robust initiative against the intervention of the junta in the immediate aftermath of yet another victory of the National League for Democracy. Amazing is the promptitude of the White House reprisal. Nonetheless, the US President has effected a deft balancing act. It thus comes about that while his administration has the authority to freeze US assets that benefit Myanmar’s leaders, there will be no change of policy pertaining to support for healthcare programmes, civil society groups and other spheres that benefit the people.
From the economic perspective, the curbs will be suitably crippling, but it is unlikely that the applecart of governance will be rocked. The establishment soldiers on if Iran is held up as a casestudy. President Biden has indicated that more measures are on the anvil. For now, the executive order will prevent Myanmar’s generals from accessing $1 billion in assets in the United States. The administration will identify specific targets of the sanctions later this week.
“The military must relinquish power it seized and demonstrate respect for the will of the people of Burma,” Mr Biden said. “The people of Burma are making their voices heard, and the world is watching,” the President affirmed, using an alternate name for Myanmar. “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.”
Before Mr Biden spoke from the White House, large crowds opposed to the military takeover demonstrated on the streets of Myanmar, even after security forces stepped up the use of force against them and raided the headquarters of Suu Kyi’s political party, the NLD. It is open to question whether Wednesday’s US action will impinge on Myanmar’s military regime. Many among the military leaders are already under sanctions imposed in the wake of the offensive against the Rohingyas.
The US first imposed sanctions in 1998 after the military violently suppressed a protest. These were tightened over the next two decades because of what Washington deemed human rights violations by the ruling military regime. It is imperative to fix the accountability of the junta. There is increasing recognition that this will need to be a coordinated effort by the comity of nations if change has to be brought about in Myanmar.
For far too long has it suffered at the hands of the army, which even has 25 per cent of the seats reserved in a supposedly elected Parliament. Joe Biden has acted against institutionalised shambolism.