Giving hope to persecuted Christians since 1995
Select Page

06/26/2023 Myanmar (International Christian Concern) ––Officials from the U.S. Department of the Treasury announced a new round of sanctions on the military junta ruling Myanmar on June 21. Since taking over the country in a bloody February 2021 coup, the junta has waged a brutal war against ethnic and religious minorities and pro-democracy activists around the country.  

“This campaign of violence has resulted in the death of more than 3,600 civilians,” the Treasury said in a press release, “along with the destruction of tens of thousands of homes and other infrastructure, while also displacing nearly 1.5 million people.” 

Despite the significant resources available to the military, or Tatmadaw, recent reports suggest that anti-junta militias have gained significant ground in recent months, reducing the area under solid Tatmadaw control to as little as 17%, according to the Special Advisory Council for Myanmar. 

Western countries and their allies, led in large part by the U.S., have refused to acknowledge the junta’s legitimacy and have piled on dozens of sanctions designed to limit the junta’s financial resources. These latest sanctions target the Burmese Ministry of Defense, the Myanma Foreign Trade Bank, and the Myanmar Investment and Commercial Bank. The latter two institutions house much of the junta’s foreign currency reserves, which are critical to the junta’s ability to import various goods and services needed to sustain its war effort. 

While the recent sanctions stopped short of targeting the junta’s profitable gas projects, some analysts believe the move could create difficulties for the regime. A Tatmadaw spokesman responded that it was not concerned about the sanctions, according to a Reuters report. He did admit, though, that they could cause “difficulties.” The Burmese military has worked around Western sanctions for many years and primarily trades with partners like China and Russia, which have traditionally chosen not to abide by U.S. sanctions on the regime. 

The sanctions come as the junta has increased talk of holding elections this year. Promised from the outset but consistently delayed, the junta’s proposed elections have done little to reassure human rights watchers and pro-democracy advocates who widely see the elections as an attempt to establish an ill-deserved air of legitimacy around the military government. 

In addition to the fact that the military cannot logistically run polling in the majority of the country due to its lack of territorial control, it has also taken steps to exclude any real opposition from participating, including by jailing democratically elected opposition party leader Aung San Suu Kyi. Suu Kyi’s party, the National League for Democracy, has already promised that it will not participate in the upcoming elections if they happen, as hundreds of their leaders and supporters remain imprisoned on spurious charges. 

The Tatmadaw has a long history of violence against the people of Myanmar, including against ethnic and religious minorities like the Rohingya and Chin. Soon after the 2021 coup, ICC published a report detailing several of these minority groups and proposing actions that the international community can take to push back against the Tatmadaw. 

For interviews, please contact: [email protected].