Anti-junta group: Myanmar receiving fuel shipments even with sanctions

Records show 12 vessels transported fuel to Myanmar since October.
By RFA Burmese
2023.12.22
Anti-junta group: Myanmar receiving fuel shipments even with sanctions Storage tanks are seen at an oil refinery plant on Maday Island off Kyaukphyu in Myanmar’s Rakhine state, Oct. 2, 2019.
(Ye Aung Thu/AFP)

Shipping companies continue to transport fuel to Myanmar despite recent sanctions from the United States targeting the military junta’s use of jet fuel, an anti-junta group said in a statement.

From October until earlier this month, 12 oil tankers registered to Liberia, Panama, Vietnam, Malaysia or Indonesia made transports to Myanmar, according to a statement from the National Unity Consultative Council, or NUCC, that cited shipping records. 

Most of the ships had stopped in Singapore before going on to Myanmar, NUCC spokesman Maung Maung said.

The U.S. and British governments can tighten existing measures by imposing sanctions on companies involved in selling fuel to the junta, including any banks involved in the financial transactions, the NUCC said in the Dec. 16 statement released.

“We also have to go after companies in Singapore,” Maung Maung said. “That is why we are informing the United States and the United Kingdom.”

He said the NUCC has sent to U.S. and U.K. officials the names of the ships, the registration numbers and names of the last port from which the vessels were loaded.

The NUCC is an advisory group of political parties, ethnic armed organizations and civil society organizations opposed to the junta. It includes representatives of the National Unity Government, or NUG, which is the parallel civilian government of Myanmar made up of opponents to the junta.

ENG_BUR_FuelShipments_12212023.2.jpg
Myanmar junta leader Snr. Gen. Min Aung Hlaing sits in the cockpit of a newly acquired SU-30 SME fighter jet at the Diamond Jubilee celebration of the air force, Dec. 15, 2022. (Myanmar military)

Due to an increasing number of civilian casualties from junta airstrikes, the U.S. Treasury Department expanded sanctions in August so that any “foreign individual or entity” linked to procuring jet fuel for the military government could be targeted.

More than 3,900 civilians have been killed by the regime since it seized power in February 2021, the Treasury Department said in its announcement, with the junta increasingly reliant on “violent airstrikes” against civilians, including “women and schoolchildren,” to maintain its hold on power.

‘Sanctions don’t work well’

The Singapore Embassy in Yangon responded to RFA’s request for comment on the shipments by referring to remarks made by Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan to Singapore’s Parliament on July 3.

“Singapore would not impose a general trade embargo on Myanmar because it would affect Myanmar civilians,” he said. 

“However, the government remains committed to implementing our policy to prevent the transfer of arms and dual-use items which have been assessed to have potential military application to Myanmar, where there is serious risk that they may be used to inflict violence against unarmed civilians,” he said. 

“We will not hesitate to take action against any individual or entity which contravenes this.” 

People living in Myanmar will continue to suffer the consequences of more targeted sanctions on the junta, said Thein Tun Oo, executive director of the pro-military Thayninga Institute of Strategic Studies, which is made up of former military officers.

“Superpowers’ sanctions don’t work well. Now, we can witness it,” he told RFA, referring to the effects of August’s U.S. sanctions.

Sanctions targeting the junta’s three basic needs – funding, arms and legitimacy – are the best way to help the Myanmar people, according to Tom Andrews, the U.N.’s Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar. He made the remarks to the U.N. General Assembly on Oct. 22.

RFA emailed the U.S. and British embassies in Yangon about the NUCC’s claims, but they didn’t immediately respond on Thursday. Attempts to contact junta spokesman Major Gen. Zaw Min Tun in the issue were unsuccessful.

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