by Tim Korso
The military overthrew the civilian democratic government and arrested numerous officials, including State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi, over claims of election fraud, where Suu Kyi’s party, the National League for Democracy, won a majority of seats in 2020.
Countries around the world have begun mulling and taking action against the new military government in Myanmar, which came to power as a result of a coup carried out on 1 February, ending a brief period of civilian democratic rule in the country.
US President Joe Biden announced plans to impose sanctions on the country that will target the military in power, as well as their business interests. In addition, Washington froze $1 billion in Myanmar government funds located in the US to prevent the country’s military from using them. At the same time, Washington has not yet announced plans to cut or reduce diplomatic ties with the Asian state.
New Zealand, however, acted more harshly, suspending military and high-level political contacts with Myanmar over the coup. Wellington additionally slapped travel bans on the nation’s new military rulers and limited financial aid to the country until civilian rule is restored.
“We do not recognise the legitimacy of the military-led government and we call on the military to immediately release all detained political leaders and restore civilian rule”, New Zealand Foreign Minister Nanaia Mahuta stated.
Not all regional powers were quick to condemn the government overthrow, but Malaysia and Indonesia have already called on the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to put the Myanmar issue up for discussion during a special meeting of the organisation’s member states. The organisation, however, has historically adhered to the principle of non-interference in the affairs of its member states. One ASEAN member, Brunei, called for the “pursuance of dialogue, reconciliation” in Myanmar, but stopped just short of slamming the nation’s military for deposing the government.
The EU has yet to decide on its course of action concerning the coup in Myanmar. According to the bloc’s Minister for Foreign Affairs Josep Borrell, member states will convene on 22 February to discuss the issue and decide whether to put economic pressure on the military regime. They might include economic sanctions against the military and their interests, Borrell said.
“We now need to develop a robust response to this unacceptable seizure of power, which reverses 10 years of democratic transition”, the EU foreign policy chief said.
British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, in turn, said the UK is “urgently looking” at the situation in Myanmar and possible sanctions against the country’s military involved in the coup. He further praised the actions that Joe Biden has already undertaken towards new Myanmar’s rulers.
The military coup on 1 February led to the arrests of numerous officials and searches in the offices of the governing National League for Democracy (NLD), and ended a 10-year period of civilian democratic rule in the nation. The armed forces justified the government overthrow by saying it needed to address concerns over alleged voter fraud in the 2020 elections in which NLD secured an absolute majority of parliamentary seats.
Prior to the pivot towards a civilian government, the military ruled the country for several decades, which the country spent under the burden of international santions. The latter have been lifted since the military relinquished power ten years ago.