BANGKOK, June 22 (Xinhua) — Opponents of Myanmar’s military junta welcomed new U.S. financial sanctions on the Southeast Asian country but called on Thursday for further steps to put pressure on the ruling general to restore peace and democracy.
The U.S. Treasury Department on Wednesday announced sanctions against Myanmar’s Ministry of Defense and two state-owned banks, the Myanmar Foreign Trade Bank and the Myanmar Investment and Commercial Bank.
Read also | Pakistan university bans Holi festival: Education Minister Rana Tanveer Hussain has ordered HEC to withdraw a controversial notice against the Hindu festival against universities celebrating Holi.
The move freezes all assets of sanctioned entities in the United States or controlled by Americans. It also prohibits all transactions by U.S. persons or conducted in or through the United States to benefit the targeted entity. This will make it difficult to carry out transactions involving U.S. dollars through financial institutions.
The sanctions are the latest sanctions imposed by the Biden administration against a government formed by the Myanmar military after the Myanmar military overthrew the civilian government led by Aung San Suu Kyi on February 1, 2021.
Since then, the Department of Defense has continued to import at least $1 billion worth of goods and materials, including from sanctioned entities in Russia, the Treasury statement said.
The army’s takeover of power in 2021 sparked widespread public protests, and a violent crackdown by security forces sparked an armed resistance that has now spread across much of the country and culminated in civil war. The security forces have been accused of massive human rights violations in an attempt to suppress all opposition.
“To support its brutal repression across Myanmar, the military regime relies on foreign sources, including sanctioned Russian entities, to purchase and import weapons, dual-use goods, equipment, and raw materials to manufacture them,” the U.S. Treasury Department said in a statement Wednesday. U.S. Department of the Treasury Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC).
“The military regime and other designated state-owned entities rely on state-owned financial institutions as Myanmar’s main foreign exchange exchange to facilitate these transactions.”
The U.S. government refers to Burma by its old name.
An underground group of Myanmar researchers and activists said it welcomed Washington’s sanctions “targeting junta-controlled banks that help sustain the junta’s terror”.
“However, for the sanctions to be effective, the United States and its allies will need to do more to systematically target the junta’s financial and arms procurement networks,” said the Myanmar Justice Group statement.
It urged sanctions on Myanmar’s oil and gas company MOGE, which “continues to finance the military junta’s ongoing war crimes and crimes against humanity, as well as its network of cronies and arms brokers”.
About half of Myanmar’s foreign exchange earnings come from MOGE, much of it from offshore gas sales.
The U.S.-based organization Earth Rights International called OFAC’s actions “the most severe sanctions imposed by the United States against the Burmese military since its seizure of power in 2021.”
“The military uses these banks to launder money and deprive Myanmar of vital revenues from the gem, jade, timber and gas industries,” a statement from the group said.
“It can use these revenues to fund massacres and other crimes against humanity while starving the Burmese economy of foreign exchange, increasing the military budget, and shutting off electricity.”
But it also called for sanctions against MOGE.
In an interview published Wednesday in the state-run Myanmar Daily newspaper, junta spokesman Major General Jo Myintun accused the United States of imposing sanctions on Myanmar to spark an economic and political crisis. But he declared that Myanmar would not face any currency losses because state-owned banks have not yet opened foreign currency accounts with U.S. banks or their branches.
“I would like to tell those who are connected to the bank not to worry about the news,” Zaw Min Tun said in response to media reports anticipating the US move.
State-owned banks will continue to provide normal services such as foreign currency remittances, import and export, and employee and seafarer salary transfers, the Ministry of Planning and Finance issued an official announcement in the official newspaper on Thursday.
Myanmar currency traded on the black market on Thursday morning. The kyat fell to around 3,050 against the dollar from 2,970 the previous day. The official exchange rate of the Central Bank is set at 2,100 kyat to 1 US dollar. (Associated Press)
(This is an unedited and auto-generated story from a Syndicated News feed, the body of content may not have been modified or edited by LatestLY staff)