US sanctions Myanmar’s defense ministry over Russian arms

Two banks facilitating the junta’s arms purchases have also been blacklisted.
Alex Willemyns for RFA
US sanctions Myanmar’s defense ministry over Russian arms The Myanma Foreign Trade Bank in downtown Yangon was one of two Myanmar banks sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury on Wednesday.
Damir Sagolj/Reuters file photo

Myanmar’s Ministry of Defense and two banks that provide currency exchange services to the country’s military junta have been added to a sanctions blacklist, according to the U.S. Treasury Department.

The sanctions, announced on Wednesday, are linked to the Myanmar military’s purchases of arms from foreign sellers “including sanctioned Russian entities,” according to a Treasury Department press release.

“Since the coup, the Ministry of Defense has continued to import goods and materiel worth at least $1 billion, including from sanctioned entities in Russia,” it says. 

“These imports have both provided revenue to Russia and provided access to military equipment that has facilitated the ongoing brutality inflicted on the people of Burma by the military.”

The listings ban American citizens or companies from doing business with the three Myanmar entities, which include the Myanma Foreign Trade Bank and Myanma Investment and Commercial Bank. 

Both banks are accused of “facilitating the regime’s use of foreign currency to procure arms,” says a State Department statement, which slams them for providing “hard currency to Russia’s defense sector.”

“These banks also allow Burma’s revenue-generating state-owned enterprises to easily access international markets using the banks’ offshore accounts, providing significant financial resources for the regime to exploit for military purposes,” the statement said.

The Treasury Department press release says that the banks allow Myanmar’s military junta to turn natural resources into weaponry.

They “primarily function as foreign currency exchanges and enable the conversion of kyat to U.S. dollars and euros and the reverse,” it says.

“This conversion allows Burma’s revenue-generating state-owned enterprises, including Myanma Oil and Gas Enterprise (MOGE), access to international markets using offshore accounts and to transact more easily with foreign entities,” the press release says.

Myanmar’s military seized power in 2021 and has since been embroiled in a civil war primarily against the democratically elected government it ousted, but also the country’s many ethnic militias.

Edited by Malcolm Foster.


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