US President Joe Biden and Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong jointly called for the release of all political detainees in Myanmar, including State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and President U Win Myint, as well as foreign detainees, in a statement released after talks at the White House.
Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and U Win Myint have been detained by the military regime since it ousted Myanmar’s democratically elected government in a coup on Feb. 1 last year. The junta has kept their whereabouts secret and hit them with multiple charges as a justification for continuing to hold them. They are among a large number of officials of the ousted civilian government at the Union and state/regional levels, as well as elected lawmakers and activists, who have been in detention since the first day of the coup.
Biden and Lee shared their deep concerns about the situation in Myanmar, which has been in political turmoil since the coup, according to the statement.
The two leaders called on Myanmar’s junta to end its violence against civilians in the country, allow unhindered humanitarian access and return the country to the path of democratic transition.
The leaders said the crisis after the coup has reversed years of economic progress in Myanmar and increased the risk of illicit finance.
ASEAN member Singapore is the largest foreign investor in Myanmar and has become a preferred destination for Myanmar’s military rulers and their associates, who make periodic visits for medical trips, recreation or to squirrel their money away in various accounts under different names. Furthermore, some companies there have commercial ties with the Myanmar military junta and its conglomerates.
The Myanmar regime has been under international sanctions over the treatment of Rohingya Muslims, for overthrowing the country’s democratically elected government and for its brutal crackdown against the people. As of Tuesday, the regime had killed at least 1,719 civilians including women, children, medics and aid workers, and arrested more than 13,000 people, the majority of them for opposing military rule in the country.
The US and other Western democracies have pressured the regime by singling out certain key individuals as well as entities to make it harder for them to do business in the international community, forcing the regime to struggle with a hard currency shortage.
On March 25, the US and its allies also imposed coordinated new sanctions on the Myanmar military regime targeting the air force and arms dealers.
In the joint leaders’ statement, Biden and Lee also reiterated their call for the Myanmar military regime to urgently implement ASEAN’s five point consensus, which was reached at a summit of ASEAN leaders in April last year but has been ignored by the regime. The consensus calls for an immediate cessation of violence in Myanmar and the facilitation of dialogue between all parties to the conflict, mediated by the regional bloc’s special envoy, among other steps.
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