February 16, 2021
On February 11, 2021, in one of its inaugural foreign policy actions since taking office, the Biden Administration authorized new sanctions and export-control restrictions on Myanmar (also called Burma) in response to the Myanmar military’s recent coup against the country’s elected civilian government. These actions imposed an initial round of limited, targeted measures ten days after the Myanmar military overthrew the country’s democratically-elected government, arrested civilian leaders including State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi and President Win Myint, and imposed an intermittent nationwide shutdown on the internet and access to social media. Some of the Myanmar military leaders targeted by the new measures were already subject to U.S. sanctions due to the serious human rights abuses against the Rohingya, an ethnic minority population in Myanmar.
The Myanmar military’s extra-judicial actions are an unfortunate echo of Burma’s recent past—Suu Kyi had been detained by the military for much of the 1990s and into the early 2000s and the international community, led by the United States, had previously responded with sanctions. Indeed, U.S. sanctions against Myanmar were only formally removed in 2016, after the Myanmar military allowed certain democratic reforms, culminating in the election of State Counsellor Suu Kyi.