U.S. and allies mark anniversary of Myanmar coup with more sanctions
By Daphne Psaledakis and Simon Lewis
WASHINGTON (Reuters) -The United States and its allies imposed further sanctions on Myanmar on Tuesday, marking the two-year anniversary of a military coup with curbs on energy officials and junta members, among others.
Washington imposed sanctions on the Union Election Commission, mining enterprises and energy officials, among others, according to a Treasury Department statement. Details of the decision were first reported by Reuters.
It marks the first time the United States has targeted Myanma Oil and Gas Enterprise (MOGE) officials under the current Myanmar sanctions program, a Treasury spokesperson said.
Canada, Australia and the United Kingdom also announced sanctions.
Myanmar's top generals led a coup in February 2021 after five years of tense power-sharing under a quasi-civilian political system that was created by the military, which led to a decade of unprecedented change.
Myanmar has been in chaos since the coup, with a resistance movement fighting the military on multiple fronts after a bloody crackdown on opponents that saw Western sanctions re-imposed.
Tuesday's U.S. sanctions target the managing director and deputy managing director of MOGE, which is the junta's single largest revenue generating state-owned enterprise, according to Treasury.
Human rights advocates have called for sanctions on MOGE, but Washington has so far held back.
Also designated by Washington was the Union Minister of Energy, who Treasury said represents Myanmar's government in international and domestic energy sector engagements and manages the state-owned entities involved in the production and export of oil and gas.
Mining Enterprise No 1 and Mining Enterprise No 2, both state-owned enterprises, as well as the Union Election Commission, were also hit with sanctions by Washington.
TOUGH ELECTION RULES
On Friday, the junta announced tough requirements for parties to contest an election planned for August, including a huge increase in their membership, a move that could sideline the military's opponents and cement its grip on power.
The election would subvert the will of the people if opponents of the military continue to be met by violence, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement.
"Many key political stakeholders have announced their refusal to participate in these elections, which will be neither inclusive nor representative, and which almost certainly will fuel greater bloodshed," he said.
The rules favor the Union Solidarity and Development Party, a military proxy stacked with former generals, which was trounced by Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy (NLD) party in 2015 and 2020 elections.
Thousands of NLD members were arrested or jailed in the coup, including Suu Kyi, and many more are in hiding.
The NLD in November described this year's election as "phoney" and said it would not acknowledge it. The election has also been dismissed as a sham by Western governments.
Washington also targeted former and current Myanmar military officials, the Treasury said, accusing the Air Force of continued air strikes using Russian-made aircraft against pro-democracy forces that have killed civilians.
Canada targeted six individuals and prohibited the export, sale, supply or shipment of aviation fuel in its action. Australia targeted members of the junta and a military-run company.
The United Kingdom designated two companies and two people for helping supply Myanmar's air force with aviation fuel used to carry out bombing campaigns against its own citizens.
John Sifton, Asia advocacy director for Human Rights Watch, said that even with Tuesday's action, the United States has still not matched stronger sanctions imposed by the European Union, particularly when it comes to natural gas revenue and banks that process foreign payments for the extractive sector.
"As a result, the measures taken so far have not imposed enough economic pain on the junta to compel it to change its conduct," Sifton said in a statement.
(Reporting by Daphne Psaledakis, Simon Lewis and Susan Heavey in Washington and Sachin Ravikumar in London; Editing by Nick Macfie and Grant McCool)