Washington: The United States in a coordinated action with the United Kingdom imposed new sanctions on two conglomerates in Myanmar in response to the February military coup in the country, the Treasury and State Departments said on Thursday.
“The United States is designating two entities linked to the coup leaders, Myanma Economic Holdings Public Company Limited (MEHL) and Myanmar Economic Corporation Limited (MEC),” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement. “We are taking this step alongside the United Kingdom, which is announcing a similar action on MEHL today.”
The Treasury Department said the designated firms control 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 Burma’s democratically elected government and the ongoing repression of the Burmese people,” it said. “These sanctions are not directed at the people of Burma.”
The Treasury said MEHL is a secretive military conglomerate with business interests in various areas including banking, trade, logistics, construction, mining as well as tourism, agriculture, and food and beverage.
“MEHL’s shareholder data show that profits are systematically distributed to Burma’s military, including to those responsible for widespread human rights abuses,” it said. “MEHL also 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.”
The second designated entity, MEC, was set up in 1997 with the stated goals of adding to Burma’s economy, realizing the military needs, reducing defense spending, as well as ensuring the welfare of military personnel, the Treasury said.
“Today, MEC is a holding company with businesses in the mining, manufacturing, and telecommunications sectors, as well as companies that supply natural resources to the military, and operate factories producing goods for use by the military,” the Treasury said.
The Treasury previously sanctioned the head of MEC, Gen. Min Aung Hlaing, on December 10, 2019 over “serious human rights abuses,” and again on February 11, 2021 over his role in leading the February 1 coup.
Blinken said the coordinated action sent a message to Myanmar’s military leaders that the US and its allies would follow through on its promises to hold those behind the coup to account.
“In close collaboration with the UK, Canada, and other allies and partners, we continue to call on the military to cease all violence against the people of Burma, release all detainees and halt future arrests, lift martial law and the nationwide state of emergency, remove telecommunications restrictions, and restore the democratically elected government,” Blinken said.
On February 1, Myanmar’s military overthrew the civilian government and declared a year-long state of emergency. The coup triggered mass protests met by the junta’s deadly violence, resulting in more than 260 people having been killed since then.