Human rights advocates urge additional sanctions on Myanmar’s methane gas operations.

June 21, 2023, Washington, D.C.—Today, the U.S. Government announced new sanctions on the Myanma Foreign Trade Bank (MFTB), Myanma Investment and Commercial Bank (MICB), and the Ministry of Defense. The sanctions announcement arrives on the six-month anniversary of the BURMA Act, which President Biden signed into law in December and which commits the U.S. Government to pursue more aggressive sanctions against the Myanmar military junta.

EarthRights International Director of Strategy and Campaigns Keith Slack released the following statement: 

“U.S. sanctions against MFTB and MICB could significantly disrupt the ability of the military junta to finance its atrocities against the people of Myanmar, so long as the sanctions are actively enforced. These are the most consequential sanctions the U.S. has placed against the Myanmar military since the coup began in 2021.

“Myanmar civil society groups have called for sanctions on Myanmar’s state-owned banks for over two years. The military has used these banks to launder the vital revenues it strips from Myanmar’s gems, jade, timber, and gas sectors It can use these revenues to fund massacres and other crimes against humanity while it starves the Myanmar economy of foreign currency, ramps up its military budget, and turns off the electricity

“Gas revenues continue to be the military’s most significant source of foreign currency. The military needs this foreign currency to conduct business with unscrupulous actors such as Russia. While these latest sanctions may freeze existing funds in U.S. dollar accounts and cause disruptions to gas revenue flows, we urge the US to follow the EU and sanction the Myanma Oil and Gas Enterprise (MOGE), the military’s largest source of foreign currency. 

“The junta’s Ministry of Defense has engaged actively in the procurement of arms, aviation fuel, surveillance equipment, and other tools of war from U.S. adversaries such as Russia, as well as U.S. allies such as India and Israel. These sanctions announced today send a message that such behavior will not be tolerated.

“In May 2023, the U.S., Canada, EU, and the U.K. convened a high-level meeting to strengthen sanctions coordination. EarthRights hopes these latest sanctions are a first step to closing gaps in international sanctions that have left numerous high-value targets untouched. We call on the EU and the U.K. to follow the U.S. and Canada in sanctioning MFTB and MICB to limit the ability of the junta to use Myanmar state assets to buy weapons and aviation fuel to murder civilians

“We also call on international banks to ensure that they are not processing U.S. dollar payments to or from MFTB or MICB accounts, including those flowing from offshore gas projects. That includes banks in Thailand and Singapore known to hold MFTB accounts that funnel MOGE revenues and the U.S. correspondent banks that process them.  

“As UN human rights experts have made clear, this junta is committed to a campaign of unrelenting violence. There is no ‘silver bullet’ that will end the ongoing atrocities in Myanmar, but a scattergun approach where the U.S. sanctions banks and the EU sanctions the gas sector leaves too many gaps. The international community has waited too long to take the obvious step of placing multilateral sanctions on the military’s highest value assets.”

Kate Fried
(202) 257.0057