BANGKOK (AP) — A U.N.-appointed human rights expert and opponents of Myanmar’s military government have welcomed the latest sanctions imposed by the United States, the United Kingdom and Canada on companies providing financial resources to the army-installed regime and high-ranking officials. The move is linked to rising violence and human rights abuses in the Southeast Asian nation.
The U.S. Treasury Department said Tuesday it was imposing sanctions on Myanmar’s state-owned Myanma Oil and Gas Enterprise, a joint venture partner in all offshore gas projects and a vital source of hard cash for the military government. The sanctions block access to money and resources under U.S. control, and prohibit U.S. citizens from providing financial services to — or for the benefit of — MOGE starting from Dec. 15.
Five officials are on the sanctions list: the ministers of industry and investment and foreign economic relations; the director generals of the prosecution and prisons departments; and the chief of general staff for the combined military forces. Three organizations were also designated for sanctions, according to the Treasury Department.
The U.K. also sanctioned five people and one entity that it said are involved either in providing financial services to the regime or the supply of restricted goods, including aircraft parts.
Canada also imposed sanctions against 39 individuals and 22 entities in coordination with the U.K. and the U.S.
Tom Andrews, a special rapporteur working with the U.N. human rights office, said in a statement that the fresh sanctions were important steps forward and that the ban on financial services that benefit MOGE would hit the junta’s largest source of revenue.
“These actions signal to the people of Myanmar that they have not been forgotten, but there is much more that the international community can and must do.” said Andrews, urging U.N. member states to take stronger, coordinated action “to support the heroic efforts of the people of Myanmar to defend their nation and save their children’s future.”
Justice for Myanmar, an underground group of researchers and activists from Myanmar, also said the U.S. move against MOGE was a welcome step “to disrupt the junta’s single biggest source of foreign revenue.” The group operates covertly because the military government does not tolerate critics of its rule.
“The U.S. should continue to target the junta’s access to funds, including through full sanctions on MOGE in coordination with its allies,” the group said in a statement.
The sanctions are the latest the Western governments have imposed on Myanmar’s military regime, after the army seized power from the elected civilian government of Aung San Suu Kyi on Feb. 1, 2021.
Widespread nonviolent protests following the military takeover were suppressed by deadly force and triggered armed resistance in much of the country that some experts characterize as a civil war.
“Today’s action, taken in coordination with Canada and the United Kingdom … denies the regime access to arms and supplies necessary to commit its violent acts,” Brian Nelson, the Treasury Department’s undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, said in a statement.
“Collectively, we remain committed to degrading the regime’s evasion tactics and continuing to hold the regime accountable for its violence,” he said.
The Myanmar public and human rights groups had called for sanctions targeting gas revenues shortly after the army takeover. About 50% of Myanmar’s foreign income derives from natural gas revenues. Several offshore gas fields operate in Myanmar’s maritime territory, run by companies from Thailand, Japan, Malaysia, India and South Korea in partnership with MOGE. China is an investor in the pipeline that delivers the gas to the country.
The European Union imposed sanctions against MOGE in February last year.