By Reuters and published by CNA
Washington – The United States and its allies will impose further sanctions on Myanmar on Tuesday (Jan. 31), marking the two-year anniversary of the coup with curbs on energy officials and members of the junta, among others.
Washington imposed sanctions on the Union Election Commission, mining enterprises, energy officials and current and former military officials, according to a Treasury Department statement. Details of the US move were first reported by Reuters.
It marks the first time the United States has targeted Myanma Oil and Gas Enterprise (MOGE) officials under the current Myanmar sanctions programme, a Treasury spokesperson said.
Canada, Australia and the United Kingdom also announced sanctions on Tuesday.
Myanmar’s top generals led a coup in February 2021 after five years of tense power-sharing under a quasi-civilian political system that was created by the military, which led to a decade of unprecedented reform.
The country has been in chaos since, with a resistance movement fighting the military on multiple fronts after a bloody crackdown on opponents that saw Western sanctions reimposed.
Tuesday’s US move targets the managing director and deputy managing director of MOGE, which is the junta’s single largest revenue generating state-owned enterprise, according to Treasury.
Human rights advocates have called for sanctions on MOGE, but Washington has so far held back from designating the state-owned enterprise.
Also designated by Washington was the Union Minister of Energy, who Treasury said represents Myanmar’s government in international and domestic energy sector engagements and manages the state-owned entities involved in the production and export of oil and gas.
Mining Enterprise No 1 and Mining Enterprise No 2, both state-owned enterprises, as well as the Union Election Commission, are also set to be hit with sanctions by the United States.
The military has pledged to hold an election in August this year. On Friday, the junta announced tough requirements for parties to contest the election, including a huge increase in their membership, a move that could sideline the military’s opponents and cement its grip on power.
The rules favour the Union Solidarity and Development Party, a military proxy stacked with former generals, which was trounced by Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) party in 2015 and 2020 elections.
The NLD in November described the election as “phoney” and said it would not acknowledge it. The election has also been dismissed as a sham by Western governments.
Washington will also target former and Myanmar military officials, the Treasury said, accusing the Air Force of continuing to launch air strikes using Russian-made aircraft against pro-democracy forces that have killed civilians.
Canada targeted six individuals and prohibited the export, sale, supply or shipment of aviation fuel in its action on Tuesday, while Australia targeted members of the junta and a military-run company.
UK firms sanctioned for military ties
The United Kingdom also designated two companies and two individuals for helping supply Myanmar’s air force with aviation fuel used to carry out bombing campaigns against its own citizens.
“Our sanctions are meticulously targeted to deliver maximum impact, reducing the military’s access to finance, fuel, arms and equipment,” British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly said in a statement.
“The junta must be held to account for their brutal crackdown on opposition voices, terrorising air raids and brazen human rights violations.”
All those sanctioned by Britain are linked with an entity known as the Asia Sun group, which is involved in supplying aviation fuel to the Myanmar military.
The sanctioned firms and individuals will be subject to asset freezes – which will prevent UK citizens and businesses from dealing with them. The two individuals will also face UK travel bans, the government said.
Britain has so far sanctioned 18 individuals and 30 entities from Myanmar since the coup, the foreign office said.
John Sifton, Asia advocacy director for Human Rights Watch, said that even with Tuesday’s action, the United States has still not matched stronger sanctions imposed by the European Union, particularly when it comes to natural gas revenue and banks that process foreign payments for the extractive sector.
“As a result, the measures taken so far have not imposed enough economic pain on the junta to compel it to change its conduct,” Sifton said in an emailed statement.
“Today’s sanctions – while another step forward – are unlikely to alter this reality. Specifically, in the case of Myanmar’s lucrative natural gas revenue, the US should be attacking the actual payments made, not just sanctioning a handful of conglomerate officials.”
Top: Myanmar’s military parade to mark the 72nd Armed Forces Day in the capital Naypyitaw, Myanmar, on March 27, 2017. File photo: Reuters/Soe Zeya Tun and published by CNA
Front Page: A civilian building destroyed after being landmined and burned down by the Myanmar military in Daw Ngay Ku village in Hparuso township, in eastern Myanmar’s Kayah state, according to the rights group Amnesty International on July 20, 2022. Photo: Handout / Amnesty International / AFP and published by CNA