US imposes sanctions on Myanmar’s defense ministry, banks

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The United States has leveled sanctions against Myanmar’s Ministry of Defense and two banks used by the Southeast Asian country’s military junta to purchase arms and other goods in foreign currencies, according to the Treasury website on Wednesday.

The banks were named as the Myanmar Foreign Trade Bank (MFTB) and Myanmar Investment and Commercial Bank (MICB), which receive and transmit foreign currencies for Myanmar’s government, including state-owned enterprises that raise much of the junta’s revenues.

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Myanmar is mired in violence and instability stemming from a military coup and lethal suppression of pro-democracy protests, during which hundreds of people have been killed and many thousands arrested, with widespread allegations of arbitrary detention, forced disappearances and torture.

Experts say the sanctions on the banks, while short of targeting gas projects that are a major source of revenue for the military that seized control of Myanmar in February 2021, could have an impact on the junta’s ability to fund its war against ethnic groups and insurgencies.

A February report by campaign group EarthRights International said the two banks were “Myanmar government’s foreign currency treasuries” and were now under junta control.

“The junta relies on foreign currency to obtain many products, including jet fuel, parts for small arms production, and other supplies that cannot be bought with the Myanmar kyat,” EarthRights International said.

“As a result, sanctions against MFTB and MICB could contribute substantially to cutting off the junta’s access to foreign currency, especially if combined with strong enforcement.”

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