The US and UK actions on Thursday are the largest yet against the sprawling business interests of the Burmese military, which include telecommunications, mining and real estate.
The United States and the United Kingdom on Thursday imposed sanctions on conglomerates controlled by the Myanmar military, following the coup and the murderous crackdown by the generals on February 1, with Washington calling the move “violence. and heinous abuse ”.
The US Treasury Department said its sanctions targeted Myanma Economic Holdings Public Company Ltd (MEHL) and Myanmar Economic Corporation Ltd (MEC).
The UK has imposed similar sanctions on MEHL, citing serious human rights violations committed by the Burmese military against Rohingya Muslims.
Representatives of the two entities, which control large sectors of Myanmar’s economy, made no immediate comment.
Thursday’s actions are by far the most significant against the The sprawling business empire of the Burmese army, where he made money from dominant industries such as brewing, tobacco and mining.
Shortly after the announcement, the US State Department condemned the continued use of lethal force by Myanmar authorities over the weekend, which resulted in the deaths of at least 27 people, including several children. .
“These heinous and brutal acts against children, one barely seven years old who was shot and killed at home while sitting on her father’s lapfurther demonstrate the horrific nature of the Burmese military regime’s assault on its own people, ”State Department spokesman Ned Price said in a statement.
Washington’s move freezes all assets held by conglomerates in the United States and is the latest in a series of sanctions following the military takeover that targeted Myanmar’s central bank as well as key generals.
The designation prohibits US companies or citizens from negotiating or carrying out financial transactions with those listed.
Since nearly all dollar payments go through U.S. financial institutions, this move effectively kicks blacklisted businesses out of the U.S. banking system.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the Burmese military “has taken increasingly worrying action against its own citizens since February 1”.
“These actions will specifically target those who carried out the coup, the military’s economic interests and the funding streams supporting the brutal repression of the Burmese military,” he said. “They are not targeting the Burmese people.
“The United States and the United Kingdom have shown that we will keep our promises to promote accountability for the coup and the heinous violence and other abuses that we have seen in recent weeks,” said Blinken.
Burmese civil society and activists have long called for sanctions against the conglomerates, stepping up their campaign in the wake of the brutal repression carried out by the army in Rakhine in 2017, who sent hundreds of thousands of mostly Muslim Rohingya fleeing to neighboring Bangladesh.
Global Witness, which tracks corruption in developing countries, welcomed the move.
“This is an important step in removing the main sources of funding for the military regime,” Paul Donowitz, Myanmar campaign manager at Global Witness, said in a statement. “MEHL and MEC provide enormous amounts of revenue to the military, helping to enable its illegitimate takeover and fund its abuses against the people of Myanmar.”
In a hearing in the US Senate, Senator Ed Markey, Democratic chairman of the Asia subcommittee, said he welcomed the latest sanctions but called for more.
“More must be done to deprive the military of its economic lifeline and to deny it the weapons of war. The United States should play a leading role in urging our partners and allies, including ASEAN members, to take action to cut funding for the military, ”he said, referring to to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) said the sanctions would create significant difficulties for conglomerates to do business with outside companies.
“This is a very important step, but it is not the biggest economic sanction that could be implemented,” said HRW’s director of advocacy for Asia, John Sifton, adding that Washington should also target Myanmar’s revenues from natural gas joint ventures with international companies.
Global Witness urged the European Union to also impose sanctions on the military’s business interests and said the UK should follow the US in targeting MEC.
In announcing the sanctions, the United States issued several licenses providing exemptions for official transactions of the United States government and those of international and non-governmental organizations. A license authorized the transactions necessary to liquidate activities involving MEC and MEHL – or any entity they owned – until June 22.