With Coordinated Announcement, Western Nations Ramp up Myanmar Sanctions
By Sebastian Strangio* – The
Secretary of State Antony
Blinken said that the U.S. will “continue to promote accountability for those
responsible for the coup.”
The United States, United Kingdom, and Canada have all
imposed additional sanctions on Myanmar’s military junta, tightening
restrictions on economic dealings with the coup government that seized power on
Most significant were those sanctions announced by the U.S.,
which designated one entity and 13 more individuals responsible for
orchestrating the coup and subsequent bloody crackdown on the civilian
In a statement,
the U.S. Department of Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC),
announced sanctions against the State Administration Council (SAC), as the
junta refers to itself, accusing it of the “unlawful overthrow of the
democratically elected civilian government.”
In addition to the SAC itself, OFAC designated four members
of the SAC and nine military-appointed cabinet members, including the governor
of the central bank and the ministers of commerce and planning and finance.
OFAC also sanctioned three adult children of previously designated military
In a statement
announcing the measures, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that the move
came in response to the military government’s “continued violence and
repression against the people of Burma.” In particular, he cited the recent
siege of Mindat, in Chin State, in which the junta deployed heavy artillery
and helicopter gunships to dislodge a civilian militia that had taken control
of the town.
Promising that the U.S. will “continue to promote
accountability for those responsible for the coup,” Blinken also called on all
countries to consider imposing measures such as arms embargos and to cease all
interaction with military-owned entities.
“Our actions today underscore our resolve and that of our
partners to apply political and financial pressure on the regime as long as it
fails to stop violence and take meaningful action to respect the will of the
people,” he said.
Also yesterday, Canada imposed
sanctions on 16 individuals and 10 entities connected to the Myanmar armed
forces, or Tatmadaw, and the U.K. announced
sanctions against the state-owned Myanmar Gems Enterprise, which the U.S. sanctioned
The parallel announcement was just the latest in a string of
graduated Western sanctions against the junta, which have included a host of
senior military commanders two military-controlled
conglomerates that funnel money into the military’s coffers, and other
The coordinated move comes nearly four months after the
military power, touching off nationwide protests and work stoppages, inflaming
ethnic conflicts, and prompting intensifying crackdowns by the security forces
that have now killed more than 800 people.
In an emailed briefing on the latest round of sanctions, the
U.S.-ASEAN Business Council (USABC) said that the U.S. listing of civilian
ministers marked “a significant departure from an earlier U.S. position of
keeping designations targeted at active or former military officials.”
While most of the SAC and its cabinet have now been
sanctioned by the U.S. government, the Council predicted that the remaining
civilian ministers, potentially including the Minister of Electricity and
Energy and the Minister of Investment and Foreign Economic Relations, “can be
expected to follow suit.”
Citing sources in the U.S. government, USABC also hinted
that the next targets for U.S. sanctions could be the Myanmar Oil and Gas
Enterprise (MOGE), which earns the military billions of dollars annually, as
well as a number of the country’s state-owned financial institutions.
The sanctions announcements made today signal a coordinated
effort among Western nations to address the situation in Myanmar. As long as
the junta continues on its present course, they are likely to be followed by
further sanctions of key military figures and SAC-linked entities by Western
powers, including the European Union.
It is unlikely whether the intensifying pressure will force
the Tatmadaw to back down, given its seeming indifference to outside opinion,
passive support from China and Russia, and the “nearly
sanction-proof” nature of the illicit economy from which the military draws
considerable revenues. Along with the ongoing protests and strikes in Myanmar,
however, these sanctions are likely to make any return to normality almost
impossible for the foreseeable future.
*Sebastian Strangio is Southeast Asia
Editor at The Diplomat.