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New sanctions by UK and Canada on Myanmar military leaders are a step in the right direction but international response must go further in tackling military’s finances

February 18th, 2021  •  Author:   Global Witness  •  3 minute read
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Global Witness is pleased to see that the UK and Canada have joined the United States in placing sanctions on the military leaders responsible for the recent coup in Myanmar.

However, while these leaders should rightly be sanctioned for their role in human rights abuses, the sanctions announced today by both countries fail to meaningfully address one of the key sources of power for Myanmar’s military: its extensive business interests.

“We are disappointed by the UK’s decision to only sanction three military leaders in response to the coup in Myanmar, leaving intact the business empire that allows Myanmar’s military to operate with impunity, perpetuate human rights abuses and evade civilian oversight,” said Paul Donowitz, Myanmar Campaign Leader at Global Witness.

“If the UK government wants to be taken seriously as a leading voice on democracy and human rights as it seeks to assert ‘Global Britain’ on the international stage, it must do more to go after the money funding Myanmar’s generals and urgently expand these targeted sanctions,” Donowitz added.

Similarly, in Canada, only nine generals on the so-called ‘State Administration Council’ that the military has formed were sanctioned. This includes Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, who was sanctioned by the US and UK over a year ago for his role in the atrocities committed against Myanmar’s Rohingya population.

With people in Myanmar risking their lives in daily demonstrations against the military junta, the calls from local civil society to the international community have been clear: target the military’s economic interests. In spite of this, the UK,Canada and the US have not yet sanctioned the huge military conglomerates Myanmar Economic Corporation (MEC) and Myanmar Economic Holdings Public Company Limited (MEHL) or many of their dozens of subsidiaries.

“While the sanctions put in place so far by the US, UK and Canada are an important step in the right direction, they fall woefully short of the strong response that is needed to hold the military to account and undermine its economic power,” said Donowitz.

Global Witness is calling on the UK, Canada and the US to expand their targeted sanctions to include all military officers of rank Brigadier General and higher as well as  all military-owned and military-linked companies, especially MEC and MEHL. We are calling on the rest of the international community, including the EU and influential regional partners in Asia to urgently put in place similar targeted sanctions and a global arms embargo.