Myanmar: New sanctions

Five years on from the Rohingya Genocide, the United States and the United Kingdom have missed yet another opportunity to cut off the Myanmar junta’s income from the oil and gas sector. Although we welcome fresh UK sanctions on military-linked entities, more needs to be done for the people of Myanmar.

The UK government announced its intention to support the International Court of Justice case seeking to hold the military to account for its crimes against the Rohingya people and put in place new sanctions targeting companies supplying weapons to the junta, as well as a company linked to junta leader Min Aung Hlaing’s son Aung Pyae Sone.

Meanwhile the US had little but supportive words for the people of Myanmar – a lacklustre response that serves to underline the extent to which the international community has failed the people of Myanmar.

The junta clearly demonstrated its own escalating disdain for rule of law and accountability through yesterday’s arrest of British citizen and former UK ambassador to Myanmar Vicky Bowman, along with her husband, artist and former political prisoner Htein Lin. This apparent retaliatory arrest necessitates urgent action. The Junta’s impunity contrasts with the limits of international action to underscore the need for much tougher measures from the international community.

“While important, these statements and limited actions unfortunately fall far short of what is needed,” said Hanna Hindstrom, Senior Campaigner at Global Witness“The military is able to maintain its increasingly tenuous grip on power partly due to its superior financial resources – without money, and especially foreign currency, it would struggle to purchase the fuel it needs to fly its military jets and the bombs it needs to terrorise the people of Myanmar.”

We know where that money comes from: Myanmar’s offshore gas industry is the junta’s largest revenue stream, the source of roughly half of its foreign currency income. The US and UK must join the European Union in placing sanctions on the Myanmar Oil & Gas Enterprise (MOGE), the recipient of revenues from oil and gas projects in Myanmar.

We also already know that these sanctions can be effective. The Associated Press recent report shows that after the EU placed sanctions on MOGE in February, the Bank of China, began diverting MOGE’s portion of the money into escrow accounts, effectively cutting revenues to the junta while still maintaining gas production and electricity supplies for downstream users.

“The US and UK’s ongoing refusal to join the European Union undermines all their other Myanmar-related sanctions,” added Hindstrom. “Leaving the junta’s largest revenue stream untouched makes it much easier for the military to shrug off the impacts of other international sanctions. Sanctioning MOGE is one of the few ways that the US and UK can directly impact the course of the conflict in Myanmar, and they should do so immediately.”