US, EU add more sanctions as Myanmar violence deepens

Latest measures target officials and arms dealers as the military uses brutal force to respond to widespread armed resistance to its rule.

Air attacks on Thantlang in northwestern Chin state in October sent columns of smoke rising into the air after parts of the town were destroyed
Campaigners welcomed the latest measures but say more needs to be done to curb the military's ability to carry out devastating air attacks on civilians [File: Chin Human Rights Organization via AP Photo]

The United States and European Union have announced new sanctions against Myanmar’s military regime aimed at officials, companies and arms dealers, as campaigners urge quicker implementation of the measures given the deepening crisis in the country.

The EU sanctions apply to 19 more individuals and entities, including a minister and chief justice, and are a result of “the continuing escalation of violence and grave human rights violations following the military takeover two years ago”, the European Council said on Tuesday.

The US blacklisted an arms dealer, Kyaw Min Oo, and his Sky Aviator Company.

Kyaw Min Oo has close ties to the Myanmar military and has acted as the middleman to arrange visits to Myanmar by high-ranking foreign military officers, a US Treasury Department statement said.

Sky Aviator has facilitated arms deals on behalf of the Myanmar military, including the importation of aircraft parts, it added.

“Kyaw Min Oo profits from the violence and suffering the military has inflicted on the people of Burma since the military coup,” said Brian Nelson, the Treasury undersecretary for financial intelligence.

Myanmar was plunged into crisis when the armed forces, under Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, seized power from the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi in a coup in February 2021.

The military has faced widespread armed resistance to its rule and has responded with brutal force.

More than 2,400 people have been killed in the past two years, according to monitoring group the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, while the UN children’s agency estimates that one million people have been displaced.

The new EU sanctions apply to members of the military, members of the State Administrative Council (SAC) – the body set up by the military to run the country – as well as the judiciary and prisons service.

Also blacklisted were Tay Za and Aung Myo Myint, who have traded arms for the Myanmar military, and Naing Htut Aung, who has funded the military in relation to the crackdown on the Rohingya and also brokered weapons.

The latest package of measures marked the date of the last general election in Myanmar when Aung San Suu Kyi and her National League for Democracy party were returned to power in a landslide.

It was the EU’s first new package of measures since February.

In total, 84 individuals and 11 entities in Myanmar now fall under the EU sanctions, which include visa bans and the freezing of assets in the European Union.

“The EU has the right policy, to cut off sources of revenue and arms to the Burmese military, but they are not implementing it fast enough,” Mark Farmaner, Director of Burma Campaign UK said in a statement. “Every day there are more airstrikes, artillery strikes or arrests, the EU needs a sense of urgency. Cutting off the Burmese military’s access to money and arms will save lives.”

The Burma Campaign is urging the EU to sanction suppliers of aviation fuel to Myanmar and ban European companies from any involvement in the supply of such fuel to the country.

Rights group Amnesty International made a similar call last week as it released a report documenting 16 air attacks that took place between March 2021 and August 2022 in Kayah, Kayin and Chin states as well as in the central Sagaing region.

The air attacks killed at least 15 civilians, injured at least 36 others and destroyed homes, religious buildings, schools, health facilities and a camp for displaced people.

In two of the attacks, the military used cluster munitions, which are banned internationally.

“A fraction of the action being taken in response to the invasion of Ukraine would be transformative for the situation in Burma,” the Burma Campaign said.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies