The announcement this week of new coordinated sanctions against Myanmar’s military rulers by a handful of Western governments has been welcomed by the UN independent expert monitoring the human rights situation in the country.
UN Special Rapporteur Tom Andrews on Thursday urged all countries to follow the path taken by the United States, the United Kingdom and Canada.
Ramp up sanctions
“It is imperative that the international community ramp up the size and scope of sanctions as the junta ramps up its repression of the people of Myanmar”, he said.
Myanmar’s military leaders, known as the State Administrative Council (SAC), seized power in a coup in February and have launched brutal crackdowns against pro-democracy demonstrators.
UN Secretary-General António Guterres has repeatedly called on the military to respect the will of the people, and his Special Envoy, Christine Schraner Burgener, continues ongoing dialogue with key stakeholders in the region.
‘A new blow’
Mr. Andrews particularly highlighted the US decision to target the SAC and 16 individuals, announced on Monday, which freezes their assets and bars US nationals from providing funds, goods or services that benefit the coup leaders.
“This week the United States has taken one of the most significant steps to date against the Myanmar junta, first by sanctioning not only individuals but the State Administrative Council itself; and second, by opening the door to targeting those who continue to do business with the junta and therefore aid and abet their relentless attacks against the people of Myanmar,” he said.
“The designation of the SAC strikes a new blow to the junta’s finances. It is a significant step in the right direction.”
A wake-up call
Mr Andrews added that the naming of the SAC paves the way for further designations of individuals or entities determined to have “materially assisted, sponsored, or provided financial, material, or technological support for, or goods or services to” the Council.
“This is a warning to all those who are willing to conduct business as usual with the junta,” he said. “Those who continue to aid and abet this murderous enterprise — be they international businesses, banks, arms traffickers, or government entities providing financial, technological or other support — are now on notice that they themselves could face sanctions.”
The rights expert added “I am hopeful that this action will be a wake-up call. Not only is doing business with the junta morally reprehensible, it could now mean being cut off from the U.S. financial system and/or facing criminal or civil penalties in the United States. If doing the right and just thing is not a factor in one’s decision making, then perhaps protecting one’s self interest will be.” John BoalTom Andrews, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar.
Step up now
Mr Andrews also welcomed fresh sanctions imposed on Monday by the UK and Canada, including those which target the military from profiting from the timber and gems trade.
“The coordination of these sanctions by the US, UK, and Canada is a welcome development”, the UN expert said. “Hopefully it will lead to a tough, fully coordinated multilateral sanctions regime that enables nations to deliver the most powerful blow possible against the horror that is being inflicted on the people of Myanmar.”
He said, however, more must be done, and quickly.
“The revenue that they continue to seize from the oil and gas sector has become a lifeline for the junta. Profits from this sector are estimated to be close to what is needed to supply the forces that are keeping them in power,” he said.
“We know the junta’s sources of funds are limited and that the income from oil and gas sales helped previous juntas withstand international sanctions. The people of Myanmar cannot afford for history to repeat itself.”
Mr Andrews also called for other nations to take action. “I urge those countries that have yet to impose costs on the junta for its illegal coup and its systematic atrocities and human rights violations to reconsider,” he said. “Now is the time to step up.”