The State Department is warning of the potential for "civil and political unrest in Burma" following the dramatic military takeover of the country and arrest of its civilian leadership Monday. This as all international travel has been halted, and various communications including internet were cut to the capital.
The Biden administration has now formally declared it as a coup d'état, which means Washington is required by law to cut off all foreign assistance to the southeast Asian country. It further announced that targeted action will be taken "against those responsible" for the arrests and continued detention of the elected civilian leadership, likely in the form of sanctions.
"After careful review of the facts and circumstances, we have assessed that Aung San Suu Kyi, the leader of Burma's ruling party, and Win Myint, the duly elected head of government, were deposed in a military coup on February 1," the State Department announced Tuesday.
"We continue to call on the Burmese military leadership to release them and all other detained civil society and political leaders immediately and unconditionally."
"In addition, we will undertake a broader review of our assistance programs to ensure they align with recent events," the official said.
"At the same time, we will continue programs that benefit the people of Burma directly, including humanitarian assistance and democracy support programs that benefit civil society. A democratic civilian led government has always been Burma's best opportunity to address the problems the country faces," the statement added.
Statement from @POTUS on #BurmaCoup: US "removed sanctions on Burma over the past decade based on progress toward democracy. The reversal of that progress will necessitate an immediate review of our sanction laws and authorities, followed by appropriate action." pic.twitter.com/hMFFiqKEVR— Steve Herman (@W7VOA) February 1, 2021
According to the State Department, currently "very little" foreign assistance goes to Myanmar's government given recent years of what's been dubbed "democratic backsliding" in international reports.
One local eyewitness told BBC of the chaotic hours after military raids on government leaders' homes: "We woke up with the news of the military coup in the early morning and some of our friends were detained," according to BBC's Newsday program.
"The internet connectivity is not there anymore... I can't go out and use my phone, there is no data at all. This is what's happening right now. There are military cars roaming around the city," the eyewitness added.