Standing with the people of Burma 2 years after the military coup

Protesters holding up hands in street (© Sakchai Lalit/AP)
People protest outside Burma's embassy in Bangkok July 26, 2022. (© Sakchai Lalit/AP)

The United States and international partners are promoting justice and accountability for the atrocities committed by Burma’s military regime, while also supporting pro-democracy advocates and providing needed humanitarian assistance.

Since the Burmese military’s February 1, 2021, overthrow of Burma’s democratically elected government, the United States has sanctioned 74 people and 29 entities affiliated with the regime. Sanctions target those who carry out and enable the regime’s violence.

“As long as the regime continues to deny the people of Burma their democratic voice, we will continue to impose further costs on the military and its supporters,” President Biden said on the one-year anniversary of the coup.

On December 23, 2022, Biden signed the Burma Unified through Rigorous Military Accountability Act authorizing further sanctions and additional assistance to the pro-democracy movement.

Burned building and trees (© AP)
Houses smolder in Kinma village in central Burma June 16, 2021, after residents say military troops burned the village, The Associated Press reports. (© AP)

Burma’s military regime continues to commit violence against the people of Burma. The regime has killed more than 2,400 people and arrested over 16,000 more since the coup. The violence includes:

  • The execution of pro-democracy activists Phyo Zeya Thaw, Ko Jimmy, Hla Myo Aung and Aung Thura Zaw in July 2022.
  • An aerial bombing that killed as many as 100 people at an ethnic community gathering in Kachin state October 23, 2022.
  • A helicopter attack at a school that killed at least 11 children September 16, 2022.
  • An increase in gender-based violence and the arrest of more than 1,000 women in the months following the coup. Many have been subjected to severe abuse.
Ko Jimmy and Phyo Zeya Thaw in photo collage (© AP)
Kyaw Min Yu, better known as Ko Jimmy, seen in 2012 on left, and Phyo Zeya Thaw, seen in 2015, were among the pro-democracy advocates Burma’s military regime executed in July 2022. (© AP)

The United Nations’ Independent Investigative Mechanism for Myanmar is collecting evidence of the most serious violations of international law in Burma. The U.S. has provided $2 million to support the investigation and help protect victims and witnesses.

Many Burmese military officials who participated in the 2021 coup are also responsible for the military’s repeated attacks on members of the Rohingya minority group in 2016 and 2017. The United States has determined that the atrocities committed by the Burmese military against Rohingya amounted to crimes against humanity and constitute genocide. The United States supports The Gambia’s case against Burma, filed with the International Court of Justice in connection with atrocities committed against Rohingya, and has said it would support a U.N. Security Council referral of the situation in Burma to the International Criminal Court.

The United States also supports international partners’ calls for accountability in Burma. In a December 21, 2022, resolution, the U.N. Security Council called for Burma’s military regime to end violence, release all arbitrarily detained prisoners, protect members of minority groups and allow humanitarian assistance to enter the country.

Since the coup, the United States has provided more than $50 million in humanitarian assistance, bringing lifesaving protection, shelter, essential health care and food to people fleeing violence in Burma. Since 2017, the U.S. has provided more than $1.7 billion to assist those fleeing the violence against Rohingya in Burma, Bangladesh and elsewhere.

“The United States has long supported the people of Burma and their ability to chart their own future,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said January 3, while marking Burma’s Independence Day, January 4. “We stand in solidarity with the people of Burma in their determination to bring democracy to their country.”