EU expands sanctions targeting Myanmar regime

Despite recent signals from EU member states, the latest sanctions are not directly aimed at cutting off the military’s aviation fuel supply, and further restrictions are expected

The European Union (EU) amended its regulations on Thursday to impose new sanctions on one Myanmar entity and six individuals, including junta ministers and the regime’s quartermaster general.

The entity, the state-owned No. 2 Mining Enterprise (ME2), was already targeted by the United States (US) earlier this year in a spate of new sanctions marking the two-year anniversary since the February 2021 military coup. 

The newly sanctioned individuals include Lt-Gen Kyaw Swar Lin, the military junta’s quartermaster general; Aung Kyaw Min, the former junta-appointed chief minister of Rakhine State; 

Myint Kyaing, the junta’s minister for immigration and population; Pwint San, the junta’s minister for labour; Thet Khaing Win, the junta’s minister for health and sport; and Porel Aung Thein, another member of the military council. 

The new amendments to EU regulations constitute the seventh round of sanctions against Myanmar individuals and entities imposed by the international union, following a sixth round that closely followed new US, United Kingdom, Canadian, and Australian sanctions in February. 

“Restrictive measures currently apply to a total of 99 individuals and 19 entities. Those designated are subject to an asset freeze and a travel ban,” said an EU press release announcing the measures. “In addition, EU persons and entities are prohibited to make funds available to those listed.”

Yadanar Maung, spokesperson for the investigative activist group Justice for Myanmar (JFM), noted the significance of the EU’s most recent sanctions targets. 

“ME2 and the Quartermaster General play key roles in the Myanmar military cartel, channelling funds to the junta that finance its widening campaign of terror, helping to pay for the bombs, bullets and jet fuel that the junta uses to murder Myanmar people daily,” she said.

Additional rounds of EU sanctions are probably forthcoming. 

Earlier this month, Germany’s federal parliament signalled that its foreign affairs ministry was developing enhancements to the international sanctions regime that would comprehensively target the fuel suppliers enabling the junta’s indiscriminate airstrikes in Myanmar. 

The worst atrocities committed by the junta since the 2021 military coup have been aerial attacks on civilian targets, most notably the massacres of at least 80 people at a concert in Hpakant Township, Kachin State in October of 2022, and of more than 160 at a ceremony in Kanbalu Township, Sagaing Region, in April of this year. 

However, updates to the Official Journal of the European Union—the EU’s official gazette of record—on the day the amendments took effect, made few references to aviation fuel supplies in the rationales provided for the sanctions. 

Among the explanations given for the new sanctions, the only mention of fuel was in connection with the junta’s minister of labour Pwint San, who also served as minister of commerce between the coup and August of 2022.

“As Minister of Commerce, Pwint San facilitated the importation of goods necessary to sustain the regime’s power (e.g. fuel oil importation),” the gazette stated, while also citing the systematic violation of workers’ rights under his authority as labour minister.

Other reasons cited for the individual sanctions included the discriminatory restrictions on the movements of Rohingya people under immigration and population minister Myint Kyaing’s authority, and Aung Kyaw Min and Porel Aung Thein’s responsibility, as members of the military council, for decisions to fire on unarmed protesters and dissidents following the coup. 

Myanmar regime chief Min Aung Hlaing (centre) and Kyaw Swar Lin (right) are seen inspecting the construction progress of the junta’s Maravijaya Buddha Image in Naypyitaw in April (Global New Light of Myanmar)

As quartermaster general, Kyaw Swar Lin, 51, exercises significant authority over the management of the Myanmar Economic Corporation Limited (MEC), a military-owned holding conglomerate and major source of revenue for the junta that was among the first entities sanctioned by the US and EU following the 2021 coup. 

Earlier this month, having received intelligence that the quartermaster general was riding with a military convoy traveling the Yangon-Mandalay Expressway near Naypyitaw, a Myanmar resistance group set a landmine in the convoy’s path. Although the explosive detonated, the resistance group could not confirm the extent of harm to the vehicles’ occupants, including Kyaw Swar Lin.

Despite welcoming the latest sanctions against ME2, the quartermaster general, and other junta-connected individuals, JFM spokesperson Yadanar Maung noted the shortcomings of the sanctions imposed by foreign governments so far, and called for closer coordination among them in the design and implementation of sanctions regimes.

“The pace of US, UK, EU, Canadian and Australian sanctions are too slow and lack coordination. These governments and their allies need to do far more to cut the junta’s access to funds, arms, equipment and technology,” she said. 

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