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Myanmar: Sanction Generals And Military-Owned Companies

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Governments should impose targeted sanctions on the generals responsible for Myanmar’s February 1, 2021 coup overthrowing democratic rule and the ensuing arbitrary arrests and other abuses, Human Rights Watch has said in a new Questions-and-Answers document on sanctions policy related to Myanmar. 
Targeted sanctions should also be imposed on military-owned companies providing direct revenue to the military and its leaders.


Since the February 1 coup, Myanmar’s junta has arbitrarily arrested hundreds of people, including top civilian leaders, journalists, and civil society and protest leaders, and repeatedly cut internet access across the country during periods when the authorities are making arrests. Hundreds of thousands of people have taken to the streets to protest the coup and arrests.

“The Myanmar military was not expecting so much popular outrage over their coup, and they were counting on a fractured and weak international response,” said John Sifton, Asia advocacy director at Human Rights Watch. “It’s up to the international community to stand with the people of Myanmar and show the generals that they have miscalculated and that they need to back down.”

The nine-page Questions-and-Answers document outlines how countries can use targeted sanctions to restrict assets and revenues to the military and its generals, while avoiding broader economic effects on the Myanmar economy and its people. It describes how targeted measures can be imposed on the leadership of the junta, as well as key conglomerates owned by the military. These include the Myanmar Economic Corporation (MEC) and Myanmar Economic Holdings Limited (MEHL), both of which provide much of their revenue directly to military officers and the military itself, not the core government or the people of Myanmar.  

The document also discusses how countries can impose or tighten arms embargoes and utilize anti-money-laundering and anti-corruption laws to cut off money to the military. It also focuses on how governments can better enforce sanctions to enhance their effectiveness across various jurisdictions, to ensure that targeted military leaders feel significant consequences that change their calculations.

“The international response to the coup has to be smart, strong, and sustained,” Sifton said. “The only way Myanmar’s generals are going to back down is if the costs of staying in power are made too great to bear.”

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