“The world’s attention must remain on Myanmar, where I’ve been appalled by heartbreaking violence against civilians and inspired by the nationwide movement that represents the voice of the people,” Obama wrote in a statement released via Twitter.
On February 1, army chief Gen. Min Aung Hlaing seized control of the country, detaining government officials including civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi, whose National League for Democracy party had won by a landslide in recent democratic elections, giving it a second term in power.
Since then, junta security forces made up of police, soldiers and elite counterinsurgency troops have embarked on a systematic crackdown against unarmed and peaceful protesters, detaining around 3,000 people and forcing activists into hiding. The military also charged relatives $85 to retrieve the bodies of family members killed in one of the bloody crackdowns.
“The military’s illegitimate and brutal effort to impose its will after a decade of greater freedoms will clearly never be accepted by the people and should not be accepted by the wider world,” Obama wrote. “I support efforts by the Biden Administration and like-minded countries to impose costs on the military and support a return to a democratic path.”
The former President also encouraged Myanmar’s neighboring countries to “recognize that a murderous regime rejected by the people will only bring greater instability, humanitarian crisis, and the risk of a failed state.”
More than 700 people have died since the coup began, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, a Myanmar human rights organization.
During his presidency, Obama became the first sitting American president to visit Myanmar, going there twice as he sought to bring the country toward civilian rule.
“These are dark times, but I have been moved by the unity, resilience, and commitment to democratic values demonstrated by so many Burmese, which offers hope for the kind of future Myanmar can have through leaders who respect the will of the people,” he concluded.