US orders departure of non-emergency government employees from Myanmar

WASHINGTON (REUTERS) – The United States ordered on Tuesday (March 30) the departure of non-emergency US government employees and their family members from Myanmar due to civil unrest, the State Department said.

Myanmar has been in turmoil since the army ousted an elected government led by Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi on Feb 1, detaining her and reimposing military rule after a decade of tentative steps towards democracy.  

The State Department said in a travel advisory that on Feb 14 it had authorised the voluntary departure of non-emergency US government employees and their family members from Myanmar, and had now “updated that status to ordered departure”.

The White House on Monday condemned the Myanmar military government’s killing of dozens of civilian protesters and renewed a call for the restoration of democracy.  

The United States also said on Monday that it was immediately suspending all engagement with
Myanmar under a 2013 trade and investment agreement until the return of a democratically elected government.  

Earlier this month, the United States imposed sanctions on two members of Myanmar’s ruling junta, including the chief of police, and two military units, and blacklisted two conglomerates controlled by Myanmar’s military.  

At least 512 civilians have been killed in nearly two months of protests against the coup, 141 of them on Saturday, the bloodiest day of the unrest, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners advocacy group.

Earlier on Tuesday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken called on international companies to consider cutting ties to enterprises that support Myanmar’s military and he decried its crackdown on anti-coup protesters.

Mr Blinken told reporters the violence was “reprehensible” and followed a pattern of “increasingly disturbing and even horrifying violence” against demonstrators opposing military rule, including the killing of children as young as five.

The United States has condemned the Feb 1 coup that ousted an elected government. Washington has imposed several rounds of sanctions, but Myanmar’s generals have refused to change course.

Mr Blinken said other nations and companies worldwide should look at pulling “significant investments in enterprises that support the Burmese military”.

“They should be looking at those investments and reconsidering them as a means of denying the military the financial support it needs to sustain itself against the will of the people,” he said.

The United States last week placed Treasury sanctions on two military-owned conglomerates, which prevents US companies and individuals from dealing with them.

But some companies, including firms from US regional allies such as Japan and South Korea, still have business relationships with military-owned companies, according to activist groups.

Activists have also called on international energy companies like US-based Chevron to withhold revenues from natural gas projects they operate in Myanmar from the junta-controlled government.

One of Myanmar’s main ethnic minority rebel groups warned of a growing threat of major conflict on Tuesday and called for international intervention against the military crackdown.

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