Published: Wed, February 03, 2021

From Afar, Myanmar Migrants Lament Military Takeover, Fear Economic Ruin

From Afar, Myanmar Migrants Lament Military Takeover, Fear Economic Ruin

The United States on Tuesday declared the military roundup of civilian leaders in Myanmar a coup, and said it would look for ways to impose more sanctions or other penalties on the country's military and officers.

Already the USA imposed Global Magnitsky sanctions against the senior military officials in Myanmar over human rights abuses.

In 2019, Thailand was home to almost 500,000 documented Myanmar migrants, according to the International Labor Organization, as well as tens of thousands more unregistered workers and displaced people, mainly from marginalized ethnic groups who fled civil war decades ago but have never returned.

The Myanmar military staged a coup on Monday and seized control of the country after detaining de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi and other top leaders of her National League for Democracy (NLD) party, following escalated tensions between the government and the army that erupted due to results of the November 2020 polls.

By nightfall on Monday the military had appeared to pull off a successful coup with no uprising against them, and the NLD muted for now. The country's military leaders said in a televised address they were taking power for a one-year state of emergency and claimed their move was lawful under the constitution. "We will await the outcome before making an assessment", the senior State Department official told ABC News.

The State Department official said Washington would maintain humanitarian programs, including for the Rohingya, but will also "undertake a broader review of our assistance" to Myanmar.

Biden warned the US was "taking note of "how countries respond to the situation "in this hard hour". Suu Kyi has spent years advocating for democracy in the country, and was placed under house arrest by the military in 1989. Hundreds of parliament members were confined to a government housing complex.

Derek Mitchell, the first USA ambassador to Myanmar after military rule, said the global community still needed to respect Suu Kyi's overwhelming victory in November.

"I hope she realizes that her compact with the devil has boomeranged against her, and that she will now take the right stand on behalf of democracy, and become a true advocate for human rights".

The impact of any new USA penalties against the military is likely to be minor. Western countries had greeted the move toward democracy enthusiastically, removing sanctions they had in place for years.

Suu Kyi urged her supporters to "protect against the coup" prior to being detained, stating that it would put the country back under a dictatorship.

China has declined to say whether it was given warning that a coup was coming, but analysts played down the notion that last month's meeting had a bearing on events, or that Myanmar gave notice of the takeover.

Joe Biden has condemned the military's takeover from the civilian-led government and its detention of Suu Kyi as "a direct assault on the country's transition to democracy and the rule of law".

Washington's response to the coup seemed created to highlight old criticisms, with both Secretary of State Antony Blinken and President Joe Biden pointedly avoiding the country's legal name.

The new administration has sought to turn its main foreign-policy focus to ever more influential and economically powerful China, instead.

Asked how much money goes through the government, the official, speaking on customary condition of anonymity, said, 'Very little - nearly none'.

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