The United States House of Representatives Wednesday passed the Burma Act of 2021. The Burma Act requires the Department of State to report to Congress on the military coup in Burma (Myanmar), including a description of US efforts to (1) engage with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations to support a return to Burma’s democratic transition and democratic values throughout Southeast Asia, and (2) influence the United Nations to hold accountable those responsible for the coup.
In February 2021, following a general election where Aung San Suu Kyi’s NLD party won by a landslide, the military in Burma seized control of the country. The military-backed the opposing party and demanded a re-run of the vote claiming widespread fraud. The election commission said there was no evidence to support these claims; however, the military still maintained control.
To achieve the Act’s requirements, the Act includes authorizing over $450 million in humanitarian aid and support for the pro-democracy movement in Burma over five years, expanding sanction authorizations, and creating a coordinator position to oversee Burma policy in the US. The Act further calls for the US to condemn the military coup in Burma, urge the unconditional release of detained democratically-elected leaders and civil society members, and support a return to Burma’s democratic transition. As well as, to engage with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and ASEAN member states to promote a return to Burma’s democratic transition and democratic values throughout Southeast Asia, and support the centrality of ASEAN within the regional architecture of the Indo-Pacific.
The passage of the Act marks important progress, but additional hurdles remain as the Senate must also pass the Act.