UK Sanctions Burmese Conglomerate Linked to Military Junta

UK Sanctions Burmese Conglomerate Linked to Military Junta
Riot police officers fire teargas canisters during a protest against the military coup in Yangon, Burma, on Feb. 28, 2021. (Stringer via Reuters)
Alexander Zhang

The British government on Thursday announced sanctions against a Burmese (also known as Myanmar) business conglomerate linked to the military regime.

The Myanmar Economic Corporation (MEC) is being sanctioned for its “involvement in serious human rights violations by making funds available to the military, as well as its association with senior military figures,” the UK government said in a statement.

Under the Global Human Rights sanctions regime, the measure will prohibit funds and other resources being made available to any subsidiaries owned or controlled by MEC.

The MEC Board of Directors is mainly comprised of serving or retired military personnel, the UK government said.

Burma has been rocked by protests since the army overthrew Aung San Suu Kyi’s elected government on Feb. 1. At least 538 civilians have been killed in protests against the coup, 141 of them on March 27, the bloodiest day of the unrest, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP) activist group.

“Two months on from the start of the coup, the [Burmese] military has sunk to a new low with the wanton killing of innocent people, including children,” UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said.

“The UK’s latest actions target one of the military’s key funding streams and impose a further cost on them for their violations of human rights.”

Raab also announced extra funding to support the Independent Investigative Mechanism for Myanmar (IIMM).

The UK will contribute £500,000 ($691,000) to the mechanism to boost its effort to gather evidence on serious human rights violations in Burma, which may in the future be used in criminal proceedings.

Britain had already imposed asset freezes and travel bans against senior members of the Burmese junta for their roles in “serious human rights violations” during the coup.

Also on Thursday, British fashion retailer Next said that it has ceased placing new production orders in Burma in view of the human rights situation after the coup.

“We’re not placing any more orders at the moment, that is a big step,” CEO Simon Wolfson told Reuters.

“Most of the stock that we were sourcing from Myanmar ... we have alternatives in place already for that stock in other countries.”

Reuters contributed to this report.