Myanmar’s military should relinquish power and release officials and activists detained in a coup, US President Joe Biden said in his first foreign policy address on Thursday, as the UN Security Council issued a statement expressing “deep concern” at events in Myanmar.
Biden said the United States was working with its allies and partners to address the generals’ takeover on Monday, which was confirmed hours after they arrested the country’s elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi and other members of the government and her party in a series of early morning raids.
“There can be no doubt in a democracy force should never seek to overrule the will of the people or attempt to erase the outcome of a credible election,” Biden said.
“The Burmese military should relinquish power they have seized and release the advocates and activists and officials they have detained, lift the restrictions on telecommunications and refrain from violence.”
Myanmar’s troubled transition to democracy was derailed on Monday when army commander Min Aung Hlaing seized power, alleging irregularities in an election last November that Aung San Suu Kyi’s party won in a landslide, reports Al Jazeera.
On Monday, Biden threatened to reimpose sanctions on the government, arguing that the US had removed previous sanctions on the nation in an effort to nurture democracy.
Former President Barack Obama began lifting US sanctions on Myanmar in 2011. By 2016, most had been removed. Biden was Obama’s vice president.
On Thursday, the UN Security Council joined calls for Aung San Suu Kyi’s immediate release and others detained by the military, and expressed “deep concern” at the state of emergency imposed by the military.
The 15-member council “stressed the need to uphold democratic institutions and processes, refrain from violence, and fully respect human rights, fundamental freedoms and the rule of law”.
The council also expressed concern “at the restrictions on civil society, journalists and media workers”.
The statement was issued two days after the council held an emergency meeting behind closed doors to discuss the coup which took place on the day Myanmar’s new parliament was due to convene. That meeting broke up with the council unable to agree a statement and China and Russia saying they needed more time.
UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab welcomed Thursday’s statement.
“Today the council has united to make clear that Aung San Suu Kyi must be released, and democratic institutions restored in Myanmar,” he wrote on Twitter. The UK currently holds the presidency of the the security council.