New Western Sanctions Against Myanmar One Year After Coup

On Feb 1st, U.S, U.K, and Canada imposed new sanctions on the Myanmar military and joined other countries in calling a global halt in arms sales to the nation.

“We, alongside our international allies, will hold the Myanmar military to account for their violations of human rights and pursue justice for the Myanmar people,” British foreign minister Dominic Raab said. U.S. President Joe Biden had also addressed the military rulers in a statement on Jan 31st: “As long as the regime continues to deny the people of Burma their democratic voice, we will continue to impose further costs on the military and its supporters.”

The military had taken over Myanmar on February 1st, 2021 while ousting the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi. The Myanmar military forces had stated the previous election held in November 2020 was rigged and fraudulent without offering proof in the process. Myanmar’s political leader Aung San Suu Kyi, a Nobel peace laureate, had been arrested with charges of importing illegal communication equipment into the country, namely six walkie-talkies found in her house. Myanmar has a complicated history with democracy and this was not the first time its military has seized power.

The reason behind Aung San Suu Kyi’s arrest is likely to silence her political outcries and prevent her from having a political future in Myanmar. The military still holds considerable power in Myanmar, despite having lessened its grip over recent years. Aung San Suu Kyi had proposed to remove the military from the parliament in the past which would have resulted in a significant blow to the military’s political power. She led the National League for Democracy (NDL) to win the 2020 election by a greater margin (more than 333 seats) than the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) of general Aung Hlaing,

The people of Myanmar are suffering since the military coup of February 2021. Citizens that hoped for a democratic future for the country are displaced, beaten, and faced with many struggles. According to The Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP), there have been more than 1,400 civilian deaths and 11,000 arrests during military crackdowns on the pro-democracy movement, with more than 8,700 still currently remaining in detention. The UN is appealing for 826 million dollars in humanitarian aid for the people of Myanmar in 2022. The amount appealed by the U.N is more than twice the amount in 2021, and it reflects the growing crisis that affects nearly 14.4 million people in Myanmar.

The people of Myanmar demanded the restoration of democracy so that they may secure some freedom from fear, violence, and the dark oppressive regime instituted by the military. The sanctions imposed by the U.S., U.K, and Canada aim to maintain international peace and security by deterring the Myanmar military from further damaging and mutilating the people of Myanmar.

The three Western countries seek to restore democracy in Myanmar because they believe democracy is a pathway to peace, freedom, and prosperity for the people. Neighboring countries such as China and Russia who do not share the same vision in liberal democracy as do the Western countries have responded with a softer approach. The three western countries will seek to further promote accountability for the coup and violence perpetrated by the regime. However, it is difficult to see the Myanmar military giving in to foreign pressure. Furthermore, there is a risk that these sanctions may have trickle-down effects that negatively impact civilians. Western actors will have to be careful in how drastically they intervene so as not to exacerbate an already strained issue.