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U.S. House lawmakers pass bill to impose sanctions over Myanmar coup

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Protesters hold a picture of deposed leader Aung San Suu Kyi in Yangon, Myanmar, on February 8, 2021. On Wednesday, House lawmakers passed a bill to impose further sanctions against those responsible for the coup. File Photo by Xiao Long/ UPI | License Photo

April 7 (UPI) — More than a year after Myanmar military officials seized control of their country in a coup, House lawmakers passed bipartisan legislation to expand sanctions against those complicit in the usurpation of power and the junta’s subsequent crackdown on protesters.

The bill, House Resolution 5497, better known as the BURMA Act of 2021, passed the House of Representatives by a voice vote on Wednesday, some 14 months since the junta gained control of Myanmar on Feb. 1, 2021.

Since the coup, the military has arrested civilian leaders and conducted a brutal crackdown on protesters, resulting in more than 10,000 people arrested and 1,730 deaths as of Wednesday, according to human rights group Assistance Association for Political Prisoners.

In response, the United States and democratic allies have repeatedly punished Myanmar junta leaders with targeted sanctions and import restrictions.

“The people of Burma need us to do more,” Rep. Gregory Meeks, D-N.Y., the bill’s sponsor, argued from the floor Wednesday, referring to Myanmar by an older name. “Frankly, the Burmese military’s gross abuses demand that we do more.”

The bill passed Wednesday expands those sanctions by directing President Joe Biden to blacklist those involved in Myanmar’s defense sector as well as many others, including military-appointed government officials and those responsible or complicit in actions that undermine the democratic process, threaten peace and security or limit the exercise of freedom of expression or assembly in the Southeast Asian nation.

The sanctions are to be imposed within 30 days of the act’s enactment and will also be applied to the adult family members of anyone named.

Discretionary sanctions may also be imposed by Biden within 60 days of the bill’s enactment against Myanma Oil and Gas Enterprise if the move would reduce the junta’s destabilizing actions.

A new position at the U.S. State Department will also be formed to promote an international response and enforce sanctions on Myanmar under the bill. It will also authorize humanitarian assistance to victims of violence by the junta military and support voluntary resettlement of those displaced by the conflict and includes funds for primary, secondary and tertiary education for displaced children and for refugee camps in Bangladesh and Thailand.

Rep. Claudia Tenney, R-N.Y., told her colleagues from the floor that passing the bill is an important step in standing with the people of Myanmar and holding the junta accountable for its crimes.

“It is time that the Burmese military is again sanctioned as a matter of law,” she said. “Now, more than ever, I urge all to remain committed to the people of Burma’s quest for democracy, for peace and freedom, to oppose this affront to human dignity.”

The vote was held some two weeks after the U.S. State Department declared the conduct of the Myanmar military against its minority Rohingya citizens over the last five years amounts to genocide and crimes against humanity.

The violence against this minority group has caused more than a million to flee to neighboring nations.

Meeks said the same military leaders behind the genocide of the Rohingyas were also responsible for the coup and the crackdown.

“We must end the impunity of the Burmese military and make it harder for it to enact its brutality,” he said.

Duwa Lashi La, acting president of the National Unity Government of Myanmar, thanked the House for passing the bill, stating via Twitter that it affirms “the U.S. leadership in supporting our fight for human rights and democratic values and justice.”

The Jewish Rohingya Justice Network, a consortium of Jewish NGOS advocating for the rights of the Rohingya, called the House’s passing of the bill “a meaningful and welcome next step in the fight for justice for the Rohingya people” while urging the Senate to vote on it without delay.

“The people of Burma need international support to restore their country to a true democracy and bring justice and accountability to all those who continue to suffer at the hands of the brutal Burmese military,” it said in a statement.


U.S. House lawmakers pass bill to impose sanctions over Myanmar coup
Protesters hold a picture of deposed leader Aung San Suu Kyi in Yangon, Myanmar, on February 8, 2021. On Wednesday, House lawmakers passed a bill to impose further sanctions against those responsible for the coup. File Photo by Xiao Long/ UPI | License Photo

April 7 (UPI) — More than a year after Myanmar military officials seized control of their country in a coup, House lawmakers passed bipartisan legislation to expand sanctions against those complicit in the usurpation of power and the junta’s subsequent crackdown on protesters.

The bill, House Resolution 5497, better known as the BURMA Act of 2021, passed the House of Representatives by a voice vote on Wednesday, some 14 months since the junta gained control of Myanmar on Feb. 1, 2021.

Since the coup, the military has arrested civilian leaders and conducted a brutal crackdown on protesters, resulting in more than 10,000 people arrested and 1,730 deaths as of Wednesday, according to human rights group Assistance Association for Political Prisoners.

In response, the United States and democratic allies have repeatedly punished Myanmar junta leaders with targeted sanctions and import restrictions.

“The people of Burma need us to do more,” Rep. Gregory Meeks, D-N.Y., the bill’s sponsor, argued from the floor Wednesday, referring to Myanmar by an older name. “Frankly, the Burmese military’s gross abuses demand that we do more.”

The bill passed Wednesday expands those sanctions by directing President Joe Biden to blacklist those involved in Myanmar’s defense sector as well as many others, including military-appointed government officials and those responsible or complicit in actions that undermine the democratic process, threaten peace and security or limit the exercise of freedom of expression or assembly in the Southeast Asian nation.

The sanctions are to be imposed within 30 days of the act’s enactment and will also be applied to the adult family members of anyone named.

Discretionary sanctions may also be imposed by Biden within 60 days of the bill’s enactment against Myanma Oil and Gas Enterprise if the move would reduce the junta’s destabilizing actions.

A new position at the U.S. State Department will also be formed to promote an international response and enforce sanctions on Myanmar under the bill. It will also authorize humanitarian assistance to victims of violence by the junta military and support voluntary resettlement of those displaced by the conflict and includes funds for primary, secondary and tertiary education for displaced children and for refugee camps in Bangladesh and Thailand.

Rep. Claudia Tenney, R-N.Y., told her colleagues from the floor that passing the bill is an important step in standing with the people of Myanmar and holding the junta accountable for its crimes.

“It is time that the Burmese military is again sanctioned as a matter of law,” she said. “Now, more than ever, I urge all to remain committed to the people of Burma’s quest for democracy, for peace and freedom, to oppose this affront to human dignity.”

The vote was held some two weeks after the U.S. State Department declared the conduct of the Myanmar military against its minority Rohingya citizens over the last five years amounts to genocide and crimes against humanity.

The violence against this minority group has caused more than a million to flee to neighboring nations.

Meeks said the same military leaders behind the genocide of the Rohingyas were also responsible for the coup and the crackdown.

“We must end the impunity of the Burmese military and make it harder for it to enact its brutality,” he said.

Duwa Lashi La, acting president of the National Unity Government of Myanmar, thanked the House for passing the bill, stating via Twitter that it affirms “the U.S. leadership in supporting our fight for human rights and democratic values and justice.”

The Jewish Rohingya Justice Network, a consortium of Jewish NGOS advocating for the rights of the Rohingya, called the House’s passing of the bill “a meaningful and welcome next step in the fight for justice for the Rohingya people” while urging the Senate to vote on it without delay.

“The people of Burma need international support to restore their country to a true democracy and bring justice and accountability to all those who continue to suffer at the hands of the brutal Burmese military,” it said in a statement.

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