Sanctions will affect more than $1bn of Myanmar government funds housed in the United States as protests continue.
The US Treasury announced on Thursday that new sanctions against Myanmar will target the country’s top military officials who ordered this month’s coup in the Southeast Asian country after President Joe Biden signed an executive order that allowed the Treasury Department to also target the spouses and adult children of those being sanctioned.
“As a part of today’s action, Treasury is designating 10 current and former military officials responsible for the February 1, 2021 coup or associated with the Burmese military regime,” the US Treasury said in a statement announcing the sanctions.
The sanctions name top military commander Min Aung Hlaing and his deputy Soe Win, as well as four members of the State Administration Council.
The move will prevent the generals from accessing more than $1bn in Myanmar government funds held in the United States. The sanctions also will affect the Myanmar Ruby Enterprise and Myanmar Imperial Jade Co, businesses controlled by the regime.
President Win Myint, de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi and other civilian officials were arrested in what Biden administration said earlier this month was a coup. The declaration set the stage for the administration to levy the new sanctions.
“Today’s sanctions need not be permanent,” the White House said in a statement. “Burma’s military should immediately restore power to the democratically elected government, end the state of emergency, release all those unjustly detained, and ensure peaceful protestors are not met with violence.”
The military gave the government’s failure to act on unsubstantiated allegations of widespread voter fraud as part of the reason for the February 1 takeover of the government and declaration of a one-year state of emergency.
The generals have maintained the actions are legally justified, and have cited an article in the Constitution that allows the military to take over in times of emergency.
It remains to be seen what, if any, affect the sanctions will have. Many of the military leaders are already under sanctions because of attacks against the mostly Muslim Rohingya minority.
Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said the US is “prepared to take additional action should Burma’s military not change course. If there is more violence against peaceful protestors, the Burmese military will find that today’s sanctions are just the first.”
The White House also announced that USAID, the US foreign development agency, is redirecting $42.4m of assistance that had been slated for Myanmar, funding that was intended to support efforts to overhaul the nation’s economic policy, as well as programmes that support civil society and the private sector.
USAID, however, is keeping in place $69m to support healthcare, food security, independent media, and peace and reconciliation efforts.