Bangkok, November 1, 2023
The recent imposition of sanctions by the United States, the United Kingdom, and Canada on companies providing financial resources to Myanmar’s military-installed government and high-ranking officials has been welcomed by a U.N.-appointed human rights expert and opponents of the country’s military regime. These sanctions come in response to escalating violence and human rights abuses in the Southeast Asian nation.
On Tuesday, the U.S. Treasury Department revealed its decision to implement sanctions on “Myanma Oil and Gas Enterprise (MOGE),” a state-owned entity in Myanmar that plays a crucial role in various offshore gas projects and serves as a major revenue source for the military regime. These sanctions are set to restrict access to assets and resources under the purview of the United States, and they will also forbid U.S. citizens from providing financial services to MOGE or for its advantage, starting from December 15.
The sanctions list includes five officials: the ministers of industry and investment and foreign economic relations, the director generals of the prosecution and prisons departments, and the chief of the general staff for the combined military forces. Additionally, three organizations have been designated for sanctions, according to the U.S. Treasury Department.
The United Kingdom has also imposed sanctions on five individuals and one entity involved in providing financial services to the regime or the supply of restricted goods, including aircraft parts.
Canada has joined the U.K. and the U.S. in imposing sanctions, targeting 39 individuals and 22 entities.
Tom Andrews, a U.N. human rights office special rapporteur, commended these recent sanctions as substantial progress. He emphasized that the ban on financial services benefiting MOGE would strike a severe blow to the junta’s largest revenue source. Andrews stated, “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.” He urged U.N. member states to take stronger, coordinated action to support the efforts of the people of Myanmar to defend their nation and secure their children’s future.
Justice for Myanmar, an underground group of researchers and activists, also commended the U.S. sanctions against MOGE as a necessary step to disrupt the junta’s primary source of foreign revenue. The group operates covertly due to the military government’s intolerance of critics of its rule. They called for the U.S. to continue targeting the junta’s access to funds, including through full sanctions on MOGE in coordination with its allies.
These sanctions mark the most recent actions taken by Western nations against Myanmar’s military regime following its takeover from the democratically elected government led by “Aung San Suu Kyi” on February 1, 2021. The military’s violent suppression of widespread nonviolent protests following the takeover ignited armed resistance across the country, which some experts classify as a civil war.
Brian Nelson, the “Treasury Department’s undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence,” stated, “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.” He emphasized the commitment of these nations to degrade the regime’s evasion tactics and hold it accountable for its violence.
Calls for sanctions targeting Myanmar’s gas revenues emerged shortly after the military takeover, as approximately 50% of the country’s foreign income is derived from natural gas revenues. Several offshore gas fields in Myanmar’s maritime territory are operated by companies from Japan, Thailand, Malaysia, South Korea, and India in partnership with “MOGE.”China has made investments in the pipeline responsible for gas transportation to the country. The European Union had already imposed sanctions against MOGE in February the previous year.
These latest sanctions are seen as a significant move to increase international pressure on Myanmar’s military regime and to address the ongoing human rights violations and violence in the country.