The US tries to contact Aung San Suu Kyi after civilians die in navy custody

Myanmar State Councilor Aung San Suu Kyi will watch her hearing on the Rohingya genocide case at the United Nations International Court of Justice on December 11, 2019 in the Peace Palace of The Hague on the second day of her hearing on the Rohingya genocide case.

Koen Van Weel | AFP | Getty Images

The US is still working to contact Aung San Suu Kyi and other civilian inmates in Myanmar, the State Department said Friday after two officials from its National League for Democracy party died in military custody last week.

Suu Kyi was Myanmar’s state advisor, the civilian head of government, before she was ousted from power and arrested by the military in a coup on February 1. Her NLD party won an all-out victory in the general election last year that led the military to accuse fraud and oust them from power.

“We have a pending request to contact the State Council, which is of course unjustly arrested by the military at the moment,” State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters during a press conference on Friday.

“We have continuously inquired about their health and safety, as well as the health and safety of all detained leaders and civil society actors, and are working through appropriate channels to contact the detainees,” Price said.

The US has tried to contact Suu Kyi since the coup in February but has been turned away by the military, which has increasingly used violence against protesters in recent weeks.

There are growing concerns about the well-being of Suu Kyi and other detainees after two members of her party died last week after security forces arrested them. Suu Kyi was last seen at a court hearing on March 1st. It is unclear where she is being held. There were reports held at their home before they were taken to an undisclosed location.

More than 70 Burmese civilians have been killed and more than 2,000 people have been arrested, charged or convicted by the military regime since the coup. This is based on data compiled by the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners.

Last week the US Department of Commerce imposed export controls on the Myanmar Defense and Interior Departments and two military-affiliated companies. Washington has threatened further sanctions against the military regime if it does not stop operations.

The US has also urged China to use its leverage over Myanmar to bring the democratically elected government back to power. Beijing blocked a UN Security Council resolution in February condemning the coup. However, China backed a Security Council statement this week condemning the violence against demonstrators and expressing support for the democratic transition in Myanmar.

The president’s statement on Wednesday is a step under a resolution but still becomes part of the United Nations’ permanent record. The UN Security Council can impose sanctions, but such a measure would likely fail against the Chinese and Russian opposition.

US and Chinese officials meet in Anchorage, Alaska on March 18 to discuss a wide range of topics. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken told Congress this week that future meetings with Chinese officials would only take place if concrete progress was made on issues affecting Washington.

“There are currently no plans for a number of follow-up contracts. These commitments, if they are to follow, must really be based on the thesis that we are seeing tangible progress and tangible results with China on issues of concern for us,” said Blinken.

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