On February 1, military leaders in the small Asian country orchestrated a coup, arresting Noble laureate Aung San Suu Kyi and other elected officials, after the pro-democracy party won the vast majority of seats in parliament in the November election.
We call on President Biden to do all he can to keep democracy alive in Myanmar, to move the military leaders to stop the violence, release detained political leaders, and return to dialogue with the government to resolve concerns over fraud in the recent elections.
While we are grateful for the recent export controls and sanctions by the United States and other countries designed to target military leaders, more are needed. The United States needs to target the entirety of the military's vast economic interests, from the multibillion-dollar jade and gemstone industry, to its significant stakes in banking, real estate and alcohol businesses.
Since the coup, tens of thousands of people, including Catholics across the 16 dioceses, have taken to the streets throughout the country. Many government workers are on strike, refusing to cooperate with the military and demanding that democracy be restored. In response, the military has ordered social media and internet blackouts and used violence against peaceful demonstrators, with reports of over 100 deaths, including of children.
On Feb. 21, the Catholic Bishops Conference of Myanmar issued a statement directed “specifically to those in power,” pleading for restraint in the streets and a return to dialogue.
“Just a month ago, this nation held in her heart a great promise: dreams of enhanced peace and robust democracy. Despite the onslaught of global pandemic, the nation held an election. The world admired our capacity for managing our differences. Today the world weeps with us, shattered by the fragmentation of this nation once again. Our youth deserve better.”
Photo, Burmese pro-democracy protestors, available on Flickr. Credit: Burma Democratic Concern.
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