Suu Kyi supports a new wave of arrests in Myanmar as Biden approves sanctions
© Reuters. Monks protest against the military coup in Mandalay
(Reuters) – A close adviser to ousted Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi was arrested in a new wave of arrests following last week’s military coup, a party official said Thursday as Washington got a step closer to the junta.
Adjutant Kyaw Tint Swe was Minister for the Office of the State Council under Suu Kyi, who has been in jail since the February 1 coup.
Kyi Toe, a member of Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) information committee, said Kyaw Tint Swe and four other people linked to the previous government were removed from their homes overnight.
He said electoral commission officials were also arrested overnight, including some down to the community level, but he did not immediately have an exact number of those arrested.
The military launched the coup after allegedly widespread November election fraud that the NLD won in a landslide. The electoral commission rejected these claims.
The Myanmar authorities did not immediately respond to a request for comment and Reuters was unable to independently confirm the arrests. Numerous officials have been arrested since the coup.
US President Joe Biden on Wednesday approved an executive order introducing new sanctions against those responsible for the coup and repeated calls for the generals to give up power and free the civilian leaders.
Biden said the order enabled his government to “immediately sanction the military leaders who led the coup, their business interests and close family members.”
Washington would identify the first round of targets this week and was taking steps to prevent the generals in Myanmar, also known as Burma, from having access to $ 1 billion in US-held Myanmar government funds.
“We will also put strict export controls in place. We are freezing US assets that benefit the Burmese government and continuing to support healthcare, civil society groups and other areas that directly benefit the people of Burma,” Biden told the White House.
The coup d’état and the arrest of Suu Kyi on February 1 present Biden’s first major international crisis and a test of his twofold pledges to re-center human rights in foreign policy and to work more closely with allies.
U.S. State Department spokesman Ned Price said Washington was conducting collective actions with partners in Myanmar. “We can generate significant costs ourselves. We can generate even higher costs … by working with our like-minded partners and allies,” he told a briefing.
Even so, analysts say Myanmar’s new junta won’t be as isolated as previous iterations as China, India, Southeast Asian neighbors, and Japan are unlikely to cut ties given the country’s strategic importance.
Derek Mitchell, a former US ambassador to Myanmar, said it was important to involve nations like Japan, India and Singapore in a strong response.
“The key won’t just be what America does,” he said. “It will be how we bring others together, allies who may have more skin in the game, have more influence or at least have better relationships with the key players.”
The United Nations’ highest human rights body will examine a resolution drafted by the UK and the European Union on Friday condemning the coup and calling for urgent access for observers.
Diplomats said, however, that China and Russia – both of which have ties to Myanmar’s armed forces – are expected to object or try to weaken the text. The UN Security Council issued a statement last week demanding the release of Suu Kyi but not condemning the coup.
The protests took place on Thursday for the sixth day in a row.
Hundreds of workers lined a street in the capital, Naypyitaw, to support the civil disobedience movement. They sang anti-junta slogans and carried posters saying “Reject military coup” and “Save Myanmar”. Some held up pictures of Suu Kyi with the words “We trust our guide”.
After a woman was shot dead in violent clashes on Tuesday, the protests turned festive on Wednesday, with shirtless bodybuilders, women in ball gowns and wedding dresses, farmers on tractors and people with their pets.
The protests resurrected memories of nearly half a century of direct army rule, punctuated by bloody raids by the army until the military began relinquishing power in 2011.
Washington’s sanctions are likely aimed at coup leader Min Aung Hlaing and other top generals already under US sanctions imposed in 2019 for abusing Rohingya Muslims and other minorities.
It could also target military holding companies with investments in various sectors such as banking, gems, telecommunications, and clothing.
75-year-old Suu Kyi won the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize for her campaign for democracy and is still very popular at home, although her international reputation has been damaged by the plight of the Rohingyas.
She has been under house arrest for nearly 15 years and is now charged with illegally importing six walkie-talkies. Her lawyer says he wasn’t allowed to see her.