A man counts 1,000 note bills in Myanmar kyat currency, as the national currency is floated on the market, in Yangon, Myanmar, 02 April 2012. EPA-EFE FIlE/BARBARA WALTON

US sanctions Myanmar defense ministry, two state-owned banks

Bangkok, June 22 (EFE).- The United States’ Treasury has imposed sanctions against Myanmar’s defense ministry and two banks in the Southeast Asian country it says are used to carry out transactions between the military junta and foreign markets, including buying arms.

Myanmar military Commander-in-Chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing (L) participates in a parade during the 76th Armed Forces Day in Naypyitaw, Myanmar, 27 March 2021. EPA-EFE FILE/STRINGER

The state-owned banks, Myanma Foreign Trade Bank (MFTB) and Myanma Investment and Commercial Bank (MICB), primarily function as foreign currency exchanges allowing income-generating state-owned enterprises access to international markets using offshore accounts, and also enable the defense ministry and other sanctioned military entities to “purchase arms and other materials from foreign sources,” according to the Treasury in a statement issued Wednesday in Washington.

People withdraw cash from the ATM machine at a bank in Yangon, Myanmar, 03 February 2021. EFE-EPA FILE/STRINGER

“Burma’s military regime has leveraged state-run access to international markets to import weapons and materiel, including from sanctioned Russian entities, to continue its violence and oppression,” said Under Secretary of the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Brian Nelson.

The Treasury also denounced Myamar’s defense ministry for being “responsible for the command and control of the armed forces,” which carried out a coup on Feb. 1, 2021, overthrowing the democratic government of Aung San Suu Kyi, who has been imprisoned since.

“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,” the Treasury said.

According to experts, bank sanctions may undermine the junta’s ability to finance its war against the resistance and ethnic minority guerrillas that are gaining ground on the armed forces, although they do not have as much scope as sanctioning the entity that controls energy projects, the biggest source of profit for the junta.

The US and other countries, as well as the European Union, have imposed multiple rounds of sanctions against members of Myanmar’s military since the coup.

Since the military uprising, more than 3,600 civilians have died at hands of the authorities, 19,000 political prisoners have been detained and more than 1.5 million people have been displaced. EFE