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US Expands Sanctions on Military-Run Myanmar

Sanctions this year cover 10 people and 15 entities, all tied to the forces that seized power from the elected government of civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi in February 2021.

The Biden administration expanded its sanctions Wednesday on Myanmar’s military junta to include foreign companies or people helping the regime acquire jet fuel used in airstrikes on its own people.

Among those newly designated by the State and Treasury departments are two people and three entities accused of supplying the military.

“The United States will continue to seek to deprive the military regime of the resources that enable its oppression of the people of Burma,” State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller said in a statement, adhering to a U.S. policy by which the country is still called by the name that it shed over 30 years ago after the ruling junta brutally suppressed a pro-democracy uprising.

War crimes from on the ground in Myanmar are recounted in the statement, which highlights in particular fighter jet and helicopter attacks that killed up to 90 civilians in April and June.

“The United States remains committed to supporting the people of Burma in their pursuit of freedom and democracy,” Brian Nelson, under secretary of Treasury for terrorism and financial intelligence, said in the press release. 

Myanmar’s military, called the Tatmadaw, has been in power since 1962. Though the country started a transition to democracy in 2011, military leaders tightened their grip in response to recent elections that brought overwhelming victories for the opposition party, National League for Democracy.

The influence of NLD leader Aung San Suu Kyi brought improved relations with Washington. The Obama administration lifted longstanding sanctions in 2016, but Myanmar’s worsening treatment of Rohingya Muslims led the Trump administration to reimpose sanctions a year later. 

After the NLD made more gains in the November 2020 elections, the military disputed the results. It seized control of the government in February 2021, arresting Suu Kyi, President U Win Myint and chief regional political leaders.

The coup kicked off a civil war, with opposition leaders who weren’t arrested forming a National Unity Government in exile and launching an armed resistance against the Tatmadaw.

Myanmar’s military has claimed it will hold elections again in 2023, but the State Department is skeptical that any vote under the existing political landscape would hold legitimacy. The regime has also not set a firm date, originally floating August, but now saying it could be sometime in November.

The Biden administration appears to be ramping up sanctions, with 10 people and 15 entities designated so far this year, compared with 16 people and nine entities in all of 2022.

In the civil war that has broken out in response to Myanmar’s 2021 coup, an estimated 6,000 civilians have been killed, with tens of thousands detained and more than 1.5 million displaced. Meanwhile, widespread food and fuel shortages have occurred as part of an economic collapse.

The White House has responded with sanctions on 85 people and 55 business entities tied to the military regime.