Antony Blinken, Congress Respond to Myanmar Coup, Aung San Suu Kyi Arrest

President Joe Biden's administration and congressional lawmakers have expressed serious concern at reports emerging from Myanmar—also known as Burma—where the military has launched a coup against the country's civilian leadership.

Troops launched raids against prominent politicians in the early hours of Monday, detaining de-facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi, President Win Myint and others. Tensions had been growing between the military and the civilian government, particularly since elections in November saw Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy win a landslide victory.

The military made its move ahead of the first session of parliament since the election, due to be held this week. Lawmakers had been due to approve the next government. But now the military says it has taken control for one year, headed by commander-in-chief General Min Aung Hlaing, accusing the civilian leadership of election fraud.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken was among those who quickly condemned the coup and arrest of civilian leaders. A statement released late on Sunday expressed "grave concern and alarm" at reports of the coup.

"We call on Burmese military leaders to release all government officials and civil society leaders and respect the will of the people of Burma as expressed in democratic elections on November 8," Blinken said. "The United States stands with the people of Burma in their aspirations for democracy, freedom, peace, and development. The military must reverse these actions immediately."

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki issued her own statement on Sunday warning the Biden administration will "take action" if the military does not reverse course.

"The United States opposes any attempt to alter the outcome of recent elections or impede Myanmar's democratic transition, and will take action against those responsible if these steps are not reversed," Psaki said.

The House Foreign Affairs Committee similarly expressed its concern. Committee Chairman Rep. Gregory Meeks issued a statement saying he was "deeply concerned by the Burmese military's arrest of President Win Myint, Aung San Suu Kyi, and other Burmese elected officials, and call for their immediate release."

"Burma's democratic progress since 2015 has been tumultuous," Meeks continued. "But each step away from decades of military dictatorship towards a democratic transition has been an important one for the Burmese people.

"With today's arrests, the Burmese military has further upended the country's democratic progress, disrupted regional stability, and gravely jeopardized the future of U.S.-Burma relations.

"I strongly urge the Burmese military to respect the election result and release those duly elected officials it has arrested in order to minimize the damage that has already been done to the country's democracy."

Individual lawmakers also condemned the coup, which threatens to return Myanmar to the military dictatorship that ruled from 1962 to 2011.

Connecticut Sen. Chris Murphy wrote on Twitter: "The transition from military to democratic rule in Myanmar has been messy and imperfect. But it was progress. Today's apparent coup is a disturbing step backward and another example of global democratic backsliding. The U.S. cannot and should not stand idly by."

Texas Rep. Joaquin Castro also posted his criticism of the move on Twitter. "I'm disturbed by reports of a coup in Burma," he said. "I urge the Burmese military to release State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi, government officials and civil society leaders. The people of Burma have spoken with their votes, and the democratic transition should resume immediately."

Myanmar soldiers in Naypyidaw after coup arrests
Soldiers stand guard on a street in Naypyidaw, Myanmar, on February 1, 2021, after the military detained the country's de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi and the country's president in a coup. STR/AFP via Getty Images/Getty