WASHINGTON: Former US president Barack Obama, who championed engagement with Myanmar to promote democratic change, said on Monday (Apr 26) he was "appalled by heartbreaking violence" the military has used against civilians after retaking power in a February coup.
In a rare statement, Obama said he supported efforts by the Biden administration and like-minded countries to impose costs on Myanmar's generals in a bid to restore democracy.
"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," he said.
"Myanmar’s neighbours should recognise that a murderous regime rejected by the people will only bring greater instability, humanitarian crisis, and the risk of a failed state," he added.
Obama urged those in Myanmar who sought a democratic future to "continue to forge solidarity across ethnic and religious groups".
"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," the former president said.
His comments came on the heels of an Association of Southeast Asian Nations summit in Jakarta to which junta chief Min Aung Hlaing was invited, with host Indonesia urging an end to violence.
Myanmar's military on Feb 1 overthrew the elected government and arrested democratic leader Aung San Suu Kyi.
An activist monitoring group has said more than 750 people have been killed and 3,431 detained since the military's lethal crackdown on anti-coup protesters.
It has been a major turnaround from the high hopes of a decade ago, when the military had initiated a transition toward democracy. Then, the generals released Aung San Suu Kyi and allowed her to run for office and opened energy and telecoms tenders to foreign companies.
Obama responded by lifting a trade embargo and most sanctions, moves some US officials thought were premature. Many of the sanctions have been reimposed since the coup.