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US and UK Sanction Myanmar Military-Owned Conglomerates

The IrrawaddyFri, March 26, 2021The military-owned Myawaddy Trading and Bank Limited building on Strand Road in Yangon. / The Irrawaddy

The United States and the United Kingdom have imposed sanctions on two military-controlled conglomerates, in their latest move against the Myanmar military regime.

Myanma Economic Holdings Public Company Limited (MEHL) and Myanmar Economic Corporation Limited (MEC) have been sanctioned by the U.S Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC). The UK government placed sanctions on MEHL only.

The two conglomerates are a vital financial lifeline for the junta. They control a wide range of businesses in various sectors, including banking, trade, logistics, construction, mining, tourism and consumer goods.

The U.S said that the sanctions are a response to the overthrowing of Myanmar’s democratically-elected National League for Democracy (NLD) government and the ongoing repression of the country’s people.

Over 270 civilians have been killed by the regime’s security forces during crackdowns on peaceful anti-regime demonstrators since the Feb.1 coup.

OFAC said that MEHL’s shareholder data shows that profits are systematically distributed to the military, including to those responsible for widespread human rights abuses.

MEHL has 1,793 institutional shareholders, which include regional military commands and subordinate battalions, divisions, platoons, squadrons, and border guard forces. Shares are distributed across the armed forces with no public accountability, creating secret slush funds that the military uses to augment its operational budget, said OFAC.

Andrea M. Gacki, OFAC’s director, said that the U.S stands with the people of Myanmar and urged the return of its democratically-elected government.

The UK imposed sanctions on MEHL for its involvement in serious human rights violations against the Rohingya and its association with senior military figures.

MEHL contributed funds to support the military during its campaign of ethnic cleansing against the Rohingya in 2017, the UK government said.

Designating MEHL under the Global Human Rights sanctions regime will prohibit funds being made available to any subsidiaries “owned or controlled” by MEHL, according to the UK.

More than 700,000 Rohingya have fled Myanmar for neighboring Bangladesh since August 2017 to escape military operations that the UN has called a “textbook example of ethnic cleansing”. The Myanmar military denies that, insisting that the operations were a response to coordinated attacks on security posts in Rakhine State by the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army.

UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said that the latest sanctions target the military’s financial interests to help drain the sources of finance for their campaign of repression against civilians.

The international envoy for Myanmar’s ousted civilian government, Dr. Sa Sa, issued a statement on his official Facebook page saying that he was grateful for the US and UK placing sanctions on military-owned companies that are contributing to the oppression of people in Myanmar.

Dr. Sa Sa said in the statement that the international community must continue to use all the power it has to weaken and stop the junta leaders.

He urged the international community to follow the example of the US and the UK and to cooperate together to impose targeted and tough sanctions against the military regime, including its leaders and military-owned companies and their subsidiaries.

SOURCE: The Irrawaddy, Myanmar Fri, March 26, 2021

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