The Biden administration on Tuesday declared the military takeover occurring in Myanmar a “coup d’etat,” a characterization that triggers U.S. federal law requiring a halt of most American aid to countries facing such circumstances.
State Department officials announced the declaration on a background call with reporters on Tuesday morning, a day after President Biden made global headlines by threatening to level fresh sanctions against Myanmar in response to the military coup in the resource-rich Southeast Asian nation that borders China.
Myanmar, also known as Burma, has known long periods of military rule in the past, but appeared to be emerging from decades of isolation and poverty with the dramatic return of civilian rule in recent years. Monday’s coup marked a reversal of the country’s move toward democracy.
It remains to be seen what specific U.S. aid to Myanmar will now be cut. U.S. officials on Tuesday’s call said they are reviewing the situation to make that determination, asserting that the State Department wants to try and keep in place certain U.S. assistance to help the people of Myanmar.
Myanmar’s military, which arrested the country’s civilian leaders on Monday, has been accused in recent years of carrying out a genocide against Rohingya Muslims, and the Biden administration may be seeking to keep in place any U.S. programs that aim to provide humanitarian assistance to communities impacted by the genocide.
A report Monday by Forbes maintained the U.S. sent roughly $216 million in foreign aid to Myanmar in 2019. The report noted that the Trump administration had cut some forms of military aid to the country in 2017, after the Myanmar military was accused of ethnic cleansing against the Rohingya.