US and EU hit Myanmar junta and arms dealers with new sanctions 

The United States and the European Union imposed more sanctions on dozens of Myanmar junta authorities on Tuesday, including its chief justice and high-ranking members of the military, as well as businesspeople closely linked to the regime.

The actions were taken on the second anniversary of the country’s last election, which deposed civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) party won in a landslide victory.

The EU’s fifth round of sanctions targets 19 individuals and one entity—the State Administration Council, the official name of the military council formed after last year’s coup. 

The sanctions take aim at those most responsible for the junta’s military operations, its executions of four political activists in July, and other actions that have undermined the rule of law and threatened security and stability in the country. Three business associates of the regime were also named.

In addition to the military’s air force chief and the heads of its regional commands and bureaus of special operations, the targeted individuals include Kan Zaw, the regime-appointed minister of investment and foreign economic relations; chief justice Htun Htun Oo; and election commission and anti-graft board members installed since the February 2021 military takeover.

The three business associates of the junta targeted by the measures are Tay Za, the founder and chair of the Htoo Group; Aung Moe Myint, the director of Dynasty International, and Naing Htut Aung, the director of International Group of Companies. The EU said the three have played a role in enabling the regime to violate human rights by helping it to procure weapons and other military equipment used against the civilian population.

Tycoon Tay Za was already sanctioned by the United Kingdom in September of last year, and in March, the UK and Canada both targeted Aung Moe Myint and his company. The US followed suit last month by imposing similar measures on Aung Moe Myint, his brother, and a business associate for their role in procuring Russian-made weapons in Belarus for the junta.

The EU has again “expressed readiness to adopt further restrictive measures against those responsible for undermining democracy and the rule of law and for the serious human rights violations in [Myanmar],” Zbyněk Stanjura, the finance minister of the Czech Republic—which took the helm of the European Council earlier this year—said regarding the latest sanctions.

The sanctions include travel bans and a freeze on the European assets of the named individuals and entities. Nationals of EU member states and companies based in those countries are also barred from transferring funds to the sanction targets.

In late February, the European bloc also sanctioned 22 regime officials and executives of the lucrative state-owned Myanma Oil and Gas Enterprise and the No.1 Mining Enterprise, along with Tay Za’s Htoo Group and one of Myanmar’s biggest conglomerates, the International Group of Entrepreneurs.

With the latest sanctions, a total of 84 persons and 11 entities have been singled out for punitive measures by the EU for their membership in or ties to the Myanmar junta.

Meanwhile, the US also slapped sanctions on Kyaw Min Oo, the owner and director of Sky Aviator Company Limited, for operating as a supplier of military aircraft to the regime.

In a statement, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that Sky Aviator has not only received multiple arms shipments for sanctioned entities, but its owner has also facilitated foreign military officers’ visits to Myanmar.

Kyaw Min Oo was also accused of importing arms and other military equipment and providing assault helicopter upgrades, which have been used by the regime to launch airstrikes that have claimed dozens of civilian lives.

The United States “is taking additional actions against those who enable the regime’s violence, particularly its repeated air assaults and killing of civilians,” said Blinken.

“We stand with the people of Burma in the face of the regime’s increasingly brazen attempts to terrorize and intimidate them, while suppressing their aspirations for a democratic, inclusive, and prosperous future,” he added, referring the country by its former name.

The sanctions announced on Tuesday freeze any assets held by Kyaw Min Oo in the US and bars Americans from dealing with him.

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