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Sanction Aviation Fuel to Alleviate Humanitarian Crisis in Burma

February 8th, 2022  •  Author:   Burma Campaign UK  •  3 minute read
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Burma Campaign UK today launches a new campaign to persuade the UK and other countries to impose sanctions to try to stop aviation fuel reaching the Burmese military.

This past weekend, airstrikes in Karen and Kachin State killed three people and injured several more.

The huge increase in the use of air power by the Burmese military since March 2021 has created a human rights and humanitarian catastrophe. The majority of the more than 400,000 people internally displaced in the past year have been forced to flee their homes because of airstrikes or the threat of airstrikes. Airstrikes have mainly taken place in ethnic states and Sagaing Region.

Civil society organisations in and from Burma have been calling for aviation fuel sanctions in response to airstrikes by the Burmese military.

The indiscriminate bombings of civilian targets are violations of international law, constituting war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Burma Campaign UK is calling for sanctions in two areas. First are sanctions on Burmese companies involved in the supply of aviation fuel to the military. Second are sanctions to stop British companies (or USA, EU companies etc) being involved in any aspect of the supply of aviation fuel to Burma, including insurance and accreditation and certification services.

Burma does not have refining capacity to manufacture its own aviation fuel. It is dependent on imports.

The Burmese military operate jets, aircraft and helicopters from Russia, China, Serbia, and Pakistan which can operate on normal commercial Jet-A1 fuel, rather than needing military grade jet fuel. Therefore, to cut off the supply of aviation fuel to the military it will be necessary to cut off the supply of aviation fuel to Burma. Similar sanctions have been imposed on Syria because of the Syrian regime’s deliberate targeting of civilians using airstrikes.

Aviation fuel sanctions could ground domestic flights. This would impact comparatively few people and would be a small inconvenience compared to the devastating impact of airstrikes. The United Nations does not use domestic airlines to deliver aid.

Regarding international flights, most airlines already avoid refuelling in Burma because of the high costs of imported aviation fuel. Some long-haul flights may be impacted and might need to refuel in neighbouring countries. Again, this is a small inconvenience compared to the humanitarian crisis being caused by airstrikes by the Burmese military.

Burma Campaign UK is still in the process of researching international companies involved in the supply of aviation fuel and will be publishing briefing papers with more information soon.

“If Burmese military aircraft can’t fly, they can’t bomb,” said Mark Farmaner, Director of Burma Campaign UK. “Airstrikes by the Burmese military have created a humanitarian crisis. Hundreds of thousands of people are displaced and in desperate need of aid. Anything that can be done to reduce to supply of aviation fuel to the military could save lives. Liz Truss must prioritise sanctioning the supply of aviation fuel to the military. Companies involved in the supply of aviation fuel to the military are complicit in the bombing of civilians and violations of international law.”

Burma Campaign UK is asking supporters to write to British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss, calling on her to impose sanctions on aviation fuel. 

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