October 31, 2023, Washington, D.C. – Today the United States announced sanctions that prohibit the provision of financial services to the Myanma Oil and Gas Enterprise (MOGE), an office within the Myanmar government that was taken over by the military when it launched its coup attempt in February 2021. Since the coup began, multinational gas companies including Chevron have continued facilitating revenue payments from offshore gas projects into MOGE accounts, while knowing that these accounts have been hijacked by the military junta. Together, multinational gas companies have enabled an estimated $3 billion in payments to the military junta since the coup began. In 2021, the New York Times reported that Chevron had lobbied the United States not to enact MOGE sanctions.
In February 2022, the European Union sanctioned MOGE, resulting in gas revenues worth hundreds of millions of dollars being withheld from the junta with no apparent negative impacts on Myanmar or its neighbors. At the time, the U.S. failed to follow the EU’s lead and, in January 2023, placed symbolic sanctions on the managing director and deputy director of MOGE.
The sanctions announced today prohibit U.S. persons from providing financial services that benefit MOGE, including dollar transfers, but still lag behind the EU. Concurrently, the U.S., U.K., and Canada also announced additional sanctions on junta officials and crony companies as part of an increasingly coordinated effort to increase the impact of sanctions and make them more difficult for the junta to evade.
EarthRights Director of Strategy and Campaigns Keith Slack issued the following statement:
“These sanctions are an important step against Myanmar’s murderous military junta. The U.S. should act immediately to put full MOGE sanctions in place. While today’s announcement makes it harder for the junta to access the U.S. financial system and evade existing banking sanctions, they may allow the American fossil fuel company Chevron to keep funding the Myanmar military’s atrocities. For too long, multinational gas companies have helped the junta to finance its war crimes and crimes against humanity in Myanmar. This reckless behavior needs to stop.
“International pressure on the junta is growing. The international community appears to be working in closer coordination to cut off the junta’s financial lifelines. More is coming. Banks and multinational companies should take note and immediately begin to disentangle their businesses from the military junta’s criminal networks. This coup is being prolonged by the international business community’s failure to fulfill its human rights and anti-money laundering responsibilities.
“This week, on October 29th, marked the 1000th day of the Myanmar military coup. From the first days of the coup, Myanmar civil society and pro-democracy leaders demanded that the United States sanction MOGE. Since that time, international civil society, United Nations representatives, and members of Congress have called for sanctions on MOGE. We are pleased that the United States has taken this important step and urge it to strengthen these sanctions in the near future.
“The United States will need to take further action to ensure that these latest steps are not just another symbolic gesture. They risk giving a green light to Chevron and other gas companies to continue doing business with the junta and providing what the U.S. Treasury has described as ‘the largest single source of foreign revenue for Burma’s military regime.’ As Myanmar civil society has requested numerous times, gas revenues should be diverted into escrow accounts that are reserved for a future, democratic government.
“During the past five months, U.S. sanctions on Myanmar’s banking sector have significantly interrupted the junta’s ability to use the international financial system to launder MOGE funds and other stolen extractive revenues. Aggressive enforcement of banking sanctions is a crucial next step. To that end, EarthRights joined Myanmar and international civil society organizations in sending a letter this week to commercial banks with a history of correspondent banking relationships with Myanmar, demanding heightened scrutiny of Myanmar-related transactions. Myanmar pro-democracy leaders have also called for additional sanctions on the Myanma Economic Bank (MEB), which the junta has used to do business with Russia and attempt to evade sanctions. The United States should apply maximum pressure on the junta with targeted sanctions that hit the junta’s banking practices – a failure to do so undermines Myanmar’s pro-democracy movement and funds atrocities.
“Today’s announcement also reflects the growing sanctions coordination between the United States, United Kingdom, and Canada, as well as the European Union and Australia. Through concerted action, the international community can amplify the impact of sanctions on the Myanmar military junta and prevent it from using its network of international cronies to evade sanctions, as it has done in the past. To have the highest impact, all of these governments must comprehensively target MOGE, other state-owned extractive enterprises, and junta-controlled banks.”
Kate Fried, EarthRights International