Germany moves to enhance sanctions on Myanmar junta and its suppliers

The German government is leading the development of a seventh round of European sanctions targeting Myanmar’s military regime, according to a statement released on Wednesday by the Bundestag. 

The Bundestag—Germany’s federal parliament in Berlin—issued the statement after its Committee on Human Rights and Humanitarian Aid discussed the humanitarian situation in Myanmar with a representative of the Foreign Office, the federal government’s foreign affairs ministry. 

The representative said the ministry was working to formulate new restrictive measures against entities and individuals not yet targeted by the existing sanctions regimes, with a particular focus on more effectively choking off the junta’s supply of jet fuel. 

The European Union, of which Germany is the largest member by population and economic output, has already imposed six rounds of sanctions on individuals and entities within or connected with the Myanmar regime. 

The policy discussed in the Bundestag on Wednesday will likely serve as the basis for a seventh round. According to the foreign office representative, the German government was working in close coordination with the United States, Canada, and Great Britain in formulating the policy. 

“The federal government sees opportunities to make the sanctions more effective, especially in the aviation fuel sector. The aim is not just to look at individuals, but at the sector as a whole,” the Bundestag’s press release stated. 

The need for measures restricting the military’s access to aviation fuel has been apparent since before Amnesty International released a report last November detailing how the junta was using its air force to perpetrate human rights abuses in Myanmar. 

The junta not only depends heavily on air superiority to maintain a combat advantage over resistance fighters in the country, but also frequently terrorises civilians with indiscriminate airstrikes, sometimes killing scores at a time. 

The worst of these incidents since the regime took power was an unprovoked aerial attack on the village of Pa Zi Gyi, in Sagaing Region’s Kanbalu Township, which massacred at least 165 unarmed people in April of this year. 

In reviewing the rationale for sanctions, the parliamentary human rights committee examined the broader humanitarian and political situation in Myanmar. 

The foreign ministry representative described the state of Myanmar’s internal conflict as “a stalemate between the military and opposition groups, which is becoming increasingly bloody,” highlighting that despite the regime’s brutality, “it has not yet succeeded in gaining complete control.”

The discussion also touched on how Cyclone Mocha had worsened an already dire humanitarian crisis, the result of 1.8 million people having been displaced from their homes by the conflict. Despite their intention to expand on existing sanctions targeting the regime, the Bundestag plans to increase humanitarian aid funding for Myanmar this year. 

A report published by the international monitoring groups Earthrights International and Global Witness in February criticised the inefficacy of the sanctions regimes in place at the time, calling for closer coordination among the governments imposing these sanctions to hold the junta and its associates to account. 

Since the report’s release, the governments of the United States, United Kingdom (UK), Canada, and Australia have joined the EU in imposing new sanctions against the junta, and may expand them further at the urging of human rights advocates. 

In publishing research on the junta’s arms suppliers in May, the United Nations’ (UN) Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, Tom Andrews, called on these governments to close loopholes in their sanctions regimes in order to enforce them more effectively.

Speaking to the UN Human Rights Council on Thursday, UK human rights ambassador Rita French affirmed the UK’s commitment to this aim, in addition to pledging funds from her government to the humanitarian assistance effort following Cyclone Mocha and the UN’s investigations of human rights abuses in Myanmar. 

“The UK will continue to apply pressure through international fora, targeted sanctions and other means to respond to the military’s actions,” French said. “There must be an end to a culture of impunity.”

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