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11 Feb, 2021 20:48

US cancels $42 million in Myanmar aid over military coup... then redirects it to nation’s ‘civil society’

US cancels $42 million in Myanmar aid over military coup... then redirects it to nation’s ‘civil society’

The US has slapped a raft of sanctions on Myanmar’s top military to block their access to more than a billion dollars in government funds being held in America, and will redirect millions in US aid to “strengthen civil society.”

The Biden administration has designated six members of Myanmar’s National Defense and Security Council, including General Min Aung Hlaing, the leader of the ruling military junta that seized power last week after ousting Aung San Suu Kyi's elected government. Hlaing led the military detention of Suu Kyi and Myanmar’s other political leaders, who are currently under house arrest, and accused them of having rigged the country’s November elections, which Suu Kyi’s party won in a landslide.

Tens of thousands of people have taken to the streets in Myanmar to protest the coup, while the military’s use of force has been condemned by the UN and wider international community.

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The White House statement says Myanmar’s parliament must be “convened at the earliest opportunity” and describes the coup as a “direct assault on the country’s transition to democracy.”

Four members of the southeast Asian nation’s governing State Administration Council have also been hit with sanctions, while the families of all those targeted are also liable, according to an executive order signed by US President Joe Biden. The military-owned Myanmar Ruby Enterprise and Myanmar Imperial Jade Co., LTD are among three entities sanctioned.

The measures freeze all US assistance to Myanmar’s government and also slap export restrictions on Myanmar’s Ministry of Defense, the Ministry of Home Affairs, its armed forces and security services.

As part of the sanctions, the US Agency for International Development (USAID) said it will redirect $42.4 million of assistance away from the government, instead using it on programs that “support and strengthen civil society and the private sector.” 

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A further $69 million earmarked for “bilateral programs” including “efforts to maintain democratic space, foster food security, support independent media, and promote peace and reconciliation in conflict-affected regions” will continue to be spent as planned, the agency added.

Suu Kyi was arrested on February 1 after police claimed to have searched her home and found walkie talkies without the correct documentation being used by her bodyguards. The military, who have pledged to hold elections, said she will remain under house arrest at her home in the capital Naypyidaw until February 15.

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