The United States has announced a further round of sanctions on Myanmar’s military government, targeting three individuals and one entity “for their roles related to the procurement of Russian-produced military arms from Belarus for the Burmese regime.”
In a statement announcing the sanctions, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that the sanctions “aim to target those abetting the military’s ability to carry out human rights abuses.”
In his statement, Blinken specifically referenced the military government’s execution in July of four political prisoners, including the veteran pro-democracy activist Ko Jimmy and Phyo Zeya Thaw, a former parliamentarian for Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD). He also mentioned the September 16 helicopter attack on a school in Sagaing Region that killed at least 11 children.
The sanctions target the Myanmar businessman Aung Moe Myint, the son of a military officer whom the U.S. Treasury Department claims “has facilitated various arms deals and weapons purchases on behalf of Burma’s military.” The Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control has also targeted Aung Moe Mying’s company, Dynasty International Company Limited, and two of its directors: Hlaing Moe Myint, his twin brother, and Myo Thitsar.
In a statement in March, the advocacy group Justice for Myanmar stated that Dynasty International “has close ties to the Belarus regime and has brokered the purchase of arms and related materiel from Belarus, Russia, and Germany.” Shortly after the military coup of February 2021, the group claimed that Aung Moe Myint traveled to Belarus to discuss “expanding and intensifying bilateral cooperation.” He currently serves as the Honorary Consul of Belarus to Myanmar and the representative of the Belarusian Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Myanmar.
In addition to attempting to weaken the military’s ability to carry out such attacks, Blinken said that the designations also implicate the Burmese military’s long-time ties to the Russian and Belarusian militaries.” He added, “We will continue to use our sanctions authorities to target those in Burma and elsewhere supporting Russia’s unlawful invasion of Ukraine, as well as Russia and Belarus’ facilitation of the Burmese regime’s violence against its own people.”
This year has witnessed a growing strategic convergence between Russia and Myanmar, as the two governments fend off international pressure for their aggressive behavior at home and abroad. Much the same is true of Belarus, a satellite of Vladimir Putin’s regime, which was the only country to vote against a June 2021 United Nations General Assembly resolution calling on member states to “prevent the flow of arms into Myanmar.”
Both nations have provided military hardware for the Myanmar military. According to Justice for Myanmar, past Belarusian arms sales to Myanmar include “two Kvadrat-M SAM missile systems, delivered in 2016, one hundred 3M9 surface-to-air missiles, delivered in 2015-16, and two Mi24/Mi-35 combat helicopters, delivered in 2019.”
Russia, which holds a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council, has also offered diplomatic cover, which Myanmar has repaid with rhetorical support for Russia’s faltering invasion of Ukraine. Min Aung Hlaing has visited Russia several times since the February 2021 military coup. On his latest, in September, he met with President Vladimir Putin, whom he praised for “controlling and organizing stability all over the world.”
While the impact of these sanctions is likely to be limited – the sanctioned individuals and entities are just four of the more than 100 individuals and companies that Justice for Myanmar has identified as brokering arms and other military equipment for the Myanmar armed forces – it is an indication of the military government’s growing isolation from the mainstream of the global community.