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European Union Issues Sanctions Against Myanmar Military and Coup Officials as U.S. Announces Additional Sanctions

Myanmar flagOn 22 March 2021, the EU added 11 Burmese officials responsible for last month’s military coup in Myanmar to its sanctions list. The designations are made in response to “the illegitimate over-throwing of the democratically-elected government and the brutal repression by the junta against peaceful protesters” under Council Implementing Regulation (EU) 2021/478 and Council Decision 2021/483. (See the EU Press Release.) The U.S. government issued a statement highlighting the EU action and those of other countries and announced further sanctions designations of its own.

The EU has followed similar action taken in the United States in response to the situation in Myanmar. As we previously reported, on 11 February the Biden Administration issued an Executive Order launching a new targeted sanctions regime, which was followed by an OFAC announcement designating various Burmese officials and entities. In conjunction with these measures, BIS announced steps to tighten certain export controls. The U.S. has continued to place pressure on Myanmar with additional measures announced over the past weeks.

Similarly, on 25 February, the UK added five entries and amended one existing entry under its Myanmar sanctions regime. Each of the entries was added to the list as a result of actions related to the February 2021 coup. (See the OSFI Notice.)

Ten of the individuals sanctioned by the EU are high-ranking military officials. The eleventh, Thein Soe, was nominated as Chairperson of the Union Election Commission in the aftermath of the coup and has also been listed by the EU. These listings overlap with but have some differences from the U.S. and UK designations. The listed individuals will be subject to a travel ban and an asset freeze.

The EU announced that it is taking additional steps, including:

  1. “withholding of financial assistance going to the government;
  2. the freezing of all assistance to government bodies that may be seen as legitimising the Myanmar military junta; and
  3. intense, ongoing diplomatic outreach.”

There is already an arms embargo in place in the EU against Myanmar, along with an export ban on dual-use goods and various other restrictions. Additionally, various military officers have been subject to EU sanctions since 2018 in relation to the violence in Rakhine state. All of these existing measures will remain in place.

The new measures are the most significant action by the EU against Myanmar since the February 2021 coup. However, the EU did not target companies associated with the Myanmar military, as some reports indicated were under consideration. Like the United States, the EU appears to leave room for further escalation of sanctions pressure.

Also on 22 March, as part of its ongoing sanctions measures against the Myanmar military and coup regime, the U.S. designated as Specially Designated Nationals (SDNs) under Executive Order 14014 the Burmese Chief of Police, Than Hlaing, its Special Operations commander Aung Soe, and two army units—the 33rd and 77th Light Infantry Divisions. U.S. officials linked each to the crackdown on peaceful protestors in Myanmar.


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