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EU sanctions on individuals responsible for Myanmar’s military coup must go further and target the junta’s economic interests

March 23rd, 2021  •  Author:   Global Witness  •  3 minute read
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Today’s announcement of European Union sanctions on 11 members of Myanmar’s military junta are a disappointingly weak and belated response to the February 1 coup. The EU must go further to prevent the regime from carrying out more heinous crimes against the people of Myanmar, press for a return of the elected, legitimate government, hold the generals accountable for their actions, and ensure the junta cannot misappropriate state resources.

According to today’s announcement by the European Council, 11 new individuals will be banned from travel to the bloc and their assets will be frozen. The measures target senior ranking members of the armed forces, and the junta-appointed Chairperson of the Union Election Commission. The EU is also withholding financial assistance to the junta.

This is the first significant action the EU has taken since the military coup on February 1, when Commander-in-Chief Min Aung Hlaing seized power and detained the country’s elected civilian leaders, who remain under house arrest and face trumped up charges that carry years of imprisonment. The EU already has an arms embargo against Myanmar, export restrictions on equipment for monitoring communications, and sanctions on some military officers.

“The EU has been slow to meaningfully respond to the military  coup and the sanctions it has belatedly announced today are totally insufficient,” said Paul Donowitz, Myanmar Campaign Leader at Global Witness.

“While Global Witness welcomes the EU’s commitment to ensuring that its response to the coup does not have an adverse effect on the general population, failing to sanction the military’s businesses will have the opposite effect. The military’s businesses fund human rights abuses against the same civilians the EU claims to want to protect,” he continued.

“The EU needs to target  the economic interests of the military by imposing sanctions on all the companies that generate revenue for and provide support to the military,”  added Donowitz.

This includes conglomerates Myanmar Economic Corporation (MEC) and Myanmar Economic Holdings Public Company Limited (MEHL) and their subsidiaries and partners, as well as companies owned, in whole or in part, by serving and former military officers and their families.

The EU also needs to ensure that the junta is not able to access and misappropriate for their own ends the state resources of Myanmar held in EU banks or flowing through the bloc’s financial system. This aligns with demands from Myanmar civil society and the committee representing the legitimate, elected government (the Committee Representing Pyidaungsu Hluttaw (CPRH)), to ensure that revenues from major foreign currency earning projects are held in protected accounts until the return of the civilian government of Myanmar.

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