The Student News Site of San Francisco State University

First 100: Sanctions against Myanmar military leaders

Protests emerge in Myanmar demanding the freedom of political leaders

February 12, 2021

On Wednesday, President Joe Biden declared that he would be imposing new sanctions against Myanmar’s military regime in response to a coup that occurred on Feb 1.

The coup, which resulted in the detainment of Myanmar’s head of state, Aung San Suu Kyi, as well as other political leaders, resulted in thousands of people protesting across the country.

The sanctions will target the business interests of military leaders who directed the coup and their family members. Biden also said that the first round of “targets” will be announced this week.

According to Biden, the sanctions will be careful not to obstruct the support of “healthcare, civil society groups, and other areas that benefit the people of Burma directly.”

In addition, an executive order has been issued by Biden that will prevent Myanmar’s generals from accessing $1 billion in assets from the U.S.

The coup was initiated after the Myanmar government failed to address the military’s claims of voter fraud during the November general election.

It’s being viewed as a violation, a clear violation of human rights.

— Mahmood Monshipouri

“American policymakers, when they talk about imposing sanctions on Myanmar in the name of promoting democracy or punishing human rights violators this is one thing to consider,” said Mahmood Monshipouri, chair of SF State’s International Relations department. “Are they punishing the people and economic development of the country, or are they punishing the military leaders?”

On Tuesday, the U.S. State Department denounced violence against the demonstrators and repeated calls for the military to restore the democratically elected government.

“It’s being viewed as a violation, a clear violation of human rights,” Monshipouri said.

Myanmar was previously the target of sanctions after attacks against the country’s Muslim Rohingya ethnic minority. As of 2019, over 900,000 Rohingya Muslims had been pushed out of Myanmar and into Bangladesh, where they experienced discrimination and extrajudicial killings.

Monshipouri stated that there is still a debate on the effectiveness of sanctions and how they have been used indiscriminately.

“I often think about sanctions, that if they are not carefully designed to hit the target, you’re collectively punishing the whole nation,” Monshipouri said. 

Biden states that his administration will be ready to impose additional measures and continue working with U.S. international partners. 

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