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  • The Diplomat

What the National Defense Authorization Act Means for US Policy Toward Myanmar

On December 27, President Joe Biden signed into law the 2022 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which marks a shift in the U.S. government’s policy on Myanmar. Section 6510 of the $770 billion NDAA calls for “supporting democracy in Burma,” but what this legislation is demanding is a new U.S. strategy toward the country.

Since the February 1 coup d’etat that ousted the democratically elected National League of Democracy (NLD), the Biden administration has made only a token response to the Myanmar military’s violent takeover and egregious human rights abuses. To be fair, the coup happened just 10 days after the inauguration, in the midst of a pandemic and an economic slowdown. Myanmar was a low priority, despite the administration’s pledge to make human rights a foreign policy priority and the U.S. government’s stated competition with China.

The administration quickly froze $1 billion in Myanmar government assets that had been deposited in the New York Federal Reserve. The U.S. Department of the Treasury immediately sanctioned the Myanmar military’s two conglomerates. Other rounds of sanctions against senior military officers, their children and cronies, and other military-linked corporations, were imposed. But the U.S. was unable to get key partners and allies, including Japan, Thailand, and Singapore to follow suit. The U.S. gave Temporary Protective Status to Myanmar nationals, supported the seating of Myanmar’s ambassador to the United Nations, who defected to the opposition government, and charged two for his attempted murder.

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