Beyond the Headlines: US hits three more Myanmar entities with trade sanctions

International affairs

The US Commerce Department’s Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) added three Myanmar organisations to its trade blacklist on March 2 for “engaging in human rights abuses” in the country, along with firms from Russia and China.

According to the department’s official statement, the targeted entities are the regime’s ministry of transport and communications, Fisca Security and Communication Co. and Naung Yoe Technologies Co. Ltd. The other organisations are among 37 entities from Russia, China, Pakistan, Belarus and Taiwan listed in the US government’s latest sanctions. 

“The Burmese entities provide surveillance equipment and services to Burma’s military regime, enabling it to carry out human rights abuses through the trafficking and identification of individuals, and the military’s continued repression of Burma’s people, including through surveillance and imprisonment,” said the BIS in its statement using an earlier name for the country.

“We cannot allow our adversaries to misuse and abuse technology to commit human rights abuses and other acts of oppression,” Matthew S. Axelrod, the US commerce department’s assistant secretary for export enforcement, said in the statement.

The targeted entities face restrictions on exports, reexports and transfers of items subject to the US export administration regulations.

In March 2021, the department also added the Myanmar regime’s ministries of defence and home affairs, and two military conglomerates—Myanmar Economic Holdings Limited and Myanmar Economic Corporation—to the list.


The Norwegian Nobel Committee released a statement on the nomination of the Nobel Peace Prize for 2023. Among the 305 candidates, 212 are individuals and 93 are organisations. While the committee keeps the identities of the qualified nominees confidential, Henrik Urdal, the director of the Peace Research Institute Oslo, announced his own annual shortlist for the Peace Prize on March 1, “offer[ing] his opinion on the most worthy potential laureates, based on his independent assessment.” Included in the five-entity list was Myanmar’s UN ambassador Kyaw Moe Tun and the National Unity Consultative Council (NUCC). Kyaw Moe Tun was appointed to the role in late 2020. After the military staged a coup in 2021, he denounced the act and instead voiced support for the publicly mandated National Unity Government, which the NUCC—made up of representatives of parliament, civil society, political parties, the Civil Disobedience Movement, ethnic armed organisations, and others—advises. 

A Myanmar protester living in Thailand holds a banner during a demonstration calling on the United Nations to recognise Kyaw Moe Tun as the Permanent Representative of Myanmar to the UN, at the UN Building in Bangkok on September 17, 2022 (EPA) 

Migration, human rights and crime

An SUV carrying around 20 people from Myanmar crashed on Thailand’s Highway 323 in Kanchanaburi Province on March 2. Two people, a woman and a boy, were killed when the vehicle—which was believed to have been travelling at high speed—hit a rock and overturned. Eight more people were injured. The driver and the other passengers fled the area before the police arrived, the Bangkok Post reported.


Two 19-year-old migrant workers—Yan Mai and Maung Piaw—were jointly charged in the Magistrate’s Court on March 3 with killing the owner of a Malaysian farm, the Sun Daily reported. Low Seng Poh, 44, was found dead on his farm, where he cultivated dragon fruit, near Port Dickson. The teens have already been jailed for six-month terms after pleading guilty to entering the country without legal documentation, and now face murder charges under Section 302 of the Malaysian Penal Code. If convicted, they may be handed the death penalty. 


A Myanmar woman reported to Indian police on February 26 that she was abducted, drugged and raped by four men in southeast Delhi’s Kalindi Kunj, according to a March 1 article in local media citing the police statement. The crime allegedly took place on February 22, when the woman was “sedated… with a chloroform-laced cloth” by an autorickshaw driver and held in an undisclosed location overnight. She had reportedly travelled to the Kalindi Kunj area with her husband and infant daughter seeking medical treatment. No arrests had been made at the time of reporting. 

Labour and the economy

Two Chinese-owned firms in the Shwepyithar Industrial Zone in Yangon shut down their operations on February 28: the GTIG Huasheng (Myanmar) and GY Sen-owned Primseng Guo (Myanmar) Apparel. Both were manufacturers of well-known international fashion retailer Primark. The Solidarity Trade Union Myanmar (STUM) claimed on its Facebook page that there had been no prior notice on the factories’ closure, nor reason for the departure, and that both firms had collectively employed some 2,200 people. 

A Myanmar girl works among piles of clothes at a garment factory in the Shwepyithar Industrial Zone in Yangon in September 2015 (EPA) 


Swiss food giant Nestlé said on February 27 that it would close its factory and head office in Yangon but will continue to distribute its products from Thailand, Malaysia and the Philippines in the country. The firm described the shift as part of an upcoming transition to operating under a more “sustainable” business model. 

“We will do all we can to support everyone affected by this decision,” a Nestlé spokesperson was quoted in a March 1 report by CNN.

Nestlé entered Myanmar in 1991 and its plant has been producing and distributing popular products including Milo chocolate beverages, Nescafé coffee and Maggi noodles.

Myanmar has been in political and economic turmoil since Myanmar’s military coup in February 2021, which ousted the elected civilian government led by de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi. Thousands have since been killed by the junta’s forces nationwide and many more were arrested, including dissidents and officials from Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy administration and party. 

Nestlé is among several international investors to exit Myanmar since the attempted seizure of power. 

A woman walks in front of the Nestlé factory gate at Dagon Seikkan Industrial Zone in Yangon on February 28, 2023 (Sai Aung Main /AFP via Getty Images)


On March 3, the NLD party leadership announced that it had expelled central executive committee member and former Yangon Region chief minister Phyo Min Thein along with three other senior members: Sandar Min, Toe Lwin, and Win Myint Aung. 

The statement claimed that the four individuals had violated party policies, neglected the people’s will, and acted on their personal interest.

While other leaders of the ousted NLD government were arrested and charged with criminal offences by the junta in the wake of the 2021 coup, Phyo Min Thein stands alone in not being handed a prison sentence. He was instead fined 100,000 kyat (under US$50) on February 17 for allegedly committing electoral fraud in violation of Section 130a of the Penal Code. State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi and President Win Myint were previously sentenced to three years in prison under the same charge. In October 2021, Phyo Min Thein testified against Suu Kyi while she was on trial for corruption charges in a military-controlled court, alleging that while in office, she had accepted bribes totalling $600,000 and seven viss (around 1.4kg) of gold in support of his own business enterprises. 

A man raises the flag of the National League for Democracy (NLD) party over his head during an election campaign rally in Yangon in October 2020 (EPA)

Sandar Min is a former Yangon regional lawmaker and Toe Lwin is the deputy chairperson of NLD for Ayeyarwady Region. Last December, the two members reportedly met with Aung San Suu Kyi in the Naypyitaw prison compound where she is being held to ask for her permission to reopen some of the NLD’s offices. They also reportedly attempted to discuss the contentious 2023 election planned by the junta. Suu Kyi allegedly rejected all requests and told them “not to come to see her again,” a source told Myanmar Now at that time.

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