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US, UK target sanctions on Myanmar’s military-linked businesses

The latest actions are the most significant step yet against military-controlled conglomerates that hold vast swaths of the economy

UCA News reporter, Mandalay

UCA News reporter, Mandalay

Published: March 25, 2021 05:00 PM GMT

Updated: March 26, 2021 06:08 AM GMT

US, UK target sanctions on Myanmar’s military-linked businesses

This photo taken and received from an anonymous source via Facebook on March 25, shows medical personnel taking part in a dawn protest in Mandalay against the military coup. (Photo: AFP)

The United States and the United Kingdom have weighed in on Myanmar’s junta with tough sanctions on its conglomerates as the military continues to unleash violence against pro-democracy protesters.

The US Treasury Department said on March 25 that it designated two military holding companies, Myanmar Economic Holdings Public Company Limited (MEHL) and Myanmar Economic Corporation Limited (MEC), which dominate certain sectors of the economy including trading, natural resources, alcohol, cigarettes and consumer goods.

“These sanctions specifically target the economic resources of Burma’s military regime, which is responsible for the overthrow of Myanmar’s democratically elected government and the ongoing repression of the people,” it said.

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It added that by designating MEC and MEHL, Treasury is targeting the military’s control of significant segments of the Myanmar economy, which is “a vital financial lifeline for the military junta.”

The UK has imposed sanctions only on MEHL, citing the military’s serious human rights violations against Rohingya Muslims.

“Today’s sanctions target the military’s financial interest to help drain the sources of finance for their campaigns of repression against civilians,” UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said in a statement on March 25.

The latest actions are the most significant step yet against the military-linked businesses that hold vast swaths of the economy.

On the same day of imposing sanctions, the US State Department strongly condemned the continued use of lethal force by security forces last weekend that resulted in the deaths of at least 27 people, including several children.

“These abhorrent and brutal acts against children, one as young as seven years old who was shot and killed in her home while sitting on her father’s lap, further demonstrate the horrific nature of the military regime’s assault on its own people and its complete disregard for the lives of the people of Myanmar,” Ned Price, department spokesperson, said.

The US and the UK have already imposed sanctions personally targeting the military leaders including senior general Min Aung Hlaing who led the Feb. 1 coup.

Pro-democracy protesters returned to the streets on March 25 a day after people across the country were involved in a silent strike by shutting businesses, shops and people staying at homes.

On March 26, hundreds of anti-coup protesters marched on the streets in Mandalay, the second-largest city while healthcare workers were involved with a ‘white-coat strike.’

Security forces continue to use lethal force to break up the protesters in Taunggyi in southern Shan state, Hpa-an in Karen state and Khin-Oo in Sagaing region that led to at least six people killed on March 25 according to Myanmar Now, a local media group.

More than 320 people have been killed since Feb 1 and at least 2,981 people have been detained, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, an independent non-profit organization founded by Burmese former political prisoners living in exile.

As the military’s repression against protesters continues, the UN’s rights envoy has called on the international community to hold an emergency summit of all stakeholders, including the parliamentarians who were democratically elected prior to last month’s coup.

Tom Andrews, the Special Rapporteur on Myanmar, warned that “the pace and scope of the international response” to the military coup in the Southeast Asian nation is “falling short of what is required to head off a deepening crisis.”

“Conditions in Myanmar are deteriorating … but they will likely get much worse without an immediate robust, international response in support of those under siege,” Andrews stressed.

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