US, UK impose new Myanmar sanctions on 2 entities

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Washington [US], March 25 (ANI): The United States in a coordinated action with the United Kingdom has 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.

"In response to the military's refusal to disavow the coup and continuing violence against peaceful protestors, today the United States is taking its most significant action to date to impose costs on the military regime," US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement.

"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). MEHL and MEC are the two largest military holding companies in Burma, and all shares in them are held and managed by current or former Burmese military officers, regiments, and units, and organizations led by former service members," he added.

Blinken said that these actions will specifically target those who led the coup, the economic interests of the military, "and the funding streams supporting the Burmese military's brutal repression. They are not directed at the people of Burma (Myanmar)."

"We are taking this step alongside the United Kingdom, which is announcing a similar action on MEHL today. The UK has been a close partner in our response to the coup. By designating these entities, the United States and the UK have shown that we will follow through on our pledges to promote accountability for the coup and the abhorrent violence and other abuses we have seen in recent weeks. 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," the top US diplomat said.

According to Sputnik, the US Treasury Department said that 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.

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.

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.

Previously, the United States imposed Myanmar-related sanctions on two individuals, including the Deputy Minister for Home Affairs and Chief of Burma Police Force, and two divisions of the country's armed forces, the Treasury Department said in a notice on the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) website on Monday.

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. (ANI)