UPDATE – Biden sets stage for US sanctions on Myanmar’s military

_: US President Joe Biden signed an executive order Wednesday opening the door for sanctions to be imposed on Myanmar’s military leaders responsible for the coup d’etat in the Asian nation.

Biden said a “first round” would be identified this week, targeting military leaders who “directed the coup, their business interests, as well as their close family members.”

“The military must relinquish the power it seized and demonstrate respect for the will of the people of Burma as expressed in their Nov. 8 election,” Biden said at the White House, reiterating calls for the Tamtadaw, as Myanmar’s military is formally known, to release political and civil society leaders who have been detained during the coup.

The US government uses the name “Burma” to refer to Myanmar.

Biden said his administration has begun to take steps that will prevent military generals “from improperly having access to the $1 billion in Burmese government funds held in the United States.”

“We’re freezing US assets that benefit the Burmese government while maintaining our support for healthcare, civil society groups and other areas that benefit the people of Burma directly,” he said.

Anti-coup protests in Myanmar continued to grip streets for a fifth day Wednesday amid a police crackdown that has already resulted in two deaths.

Several demonstrators were injured, with two in critical condition, after police in Myanmar’s administrative capital, Nay Pyi Taw, fired water cannons and rubber bullets in confronting the protestors Tuesday. It was the first such incident since anti-coup protests began.

Large-scale protests continued in Yangon and cities across the southeast Asian country Wednesday. At the same time, government staff marched in support of swelling civil disobedience initiated by health workers.

Biden said violence directed against demonstrators “asserting their democratic rights is unacceptable.”

“The people of Burma are making their voices heard, and the world is watching,” he warned.

Myanmar’s military declared a state of emergency Feb. 1, hours after detaining President Win Myint, State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi, and other senior members of the ruling NLD party.

The coup took place hours before what was supposed to be the first session of the country’s new parliament following last November’s elections in which Suu Kyi’s NLD made sweeping gains.

The military justifies the seizure of power due to what it says was “voter fraud” in the polls, a claim rejected by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.

Source: Anadolu Agency