The UK Government’s Response to the Myanmar Crisis Contents


24.The Government’s efforts to sanction key members of the junta and companies in Myanmar are commendable but have not had a significant effect so far. Sanctions against the junta should not only target critical industries but should also be implemented in a way that will apply ever-increasing pressure. This goes beyond basic coordination with allies, requiring punitive and timely sanctions, close consultation with civil society groups and individuals in Myanmar, and diplomatic engagement to encourage wider networks of countries to implement them.

25.Since our evidence session, the Government has announced new sanctions on the Myanmar Timber Enterprise, the Myanmar Pearl Enterprise, and the Myanmar State Administrative Council.27 We welcome this step, but remain concerned about the length of time it has taken to implement these sanctions. Mark Farmaner, Director of Burma Campaign UK, told us that sanctions have to be continuous and rapidly deployed in order to be effective, saying that “even the low hanging fruit has taken months to be sanctioned”.28

26.There are many more opportunities for the use of sanctions that the Government has not yet taken. Dr Sasa said:

There are bank accounts owned by the Myanmar Investment and Commercial Bank. There are many banks doing business outside. If they stop international companies giving money to the military generals, their revenue and cash flow would be cut off and no money would go to the generals, so no money would go to China to buy weapons. It is very simple. The UK has the leverage to lead on that front.29

27.This point is backed up by evidence from Fortify Rights, which said that Singapore extends banking services to the junta, a fact which is at odds with its “strong diplomatic position” on Myanmar—a point also made by Free Myanmar.3031 Similarly, John Sifton, Asia Advocacy Director at Human Rights Watch, told us:

There are dozens of bank accounts all over the world—mostly in Asia—that hold the Burmese junta’s money. Those accounts are with banks that have corresponding accounts to resolve their foreign currency transactions in London, France and New York. Because of that, those banks have to do whatever those financial authorities say.32

28.We welcome the Government’s willingness to sanction individuals and Tatmadaw-linked companies in critical sectors. This should be taken further by freezing the military’s revenue sources on all possible fronts. The UK has the economic and technical capabilities to help significantly undermine the junta’s business in crucial industries. The Government should implement sanctions on Myanmar businesses and organisations in key industries on which the junta is dependent at a much faster pace, while encouraging countries which are not currently introducing sanctions to do so.

29.We heard that banks operating in countries including Singapore and Thailand can be compelled by UK regulators to enforce UK sanctions, as they conduct transactions in British pounds. This would cut off a key intermediary for the junta’s revenues, shutting down another line of income. We recommend that the UK seeks to ensure that relevant third country financial institutions and regulators support sanctions placed on Tatmadaw-linked businesses and individuals.

28 Q28 [Mark Farmaner]

29 Q9 [Dr Sasa]

30 Fortify Rights (MYA0040) para 5.3

32 Q23 [John Sifton]

Published: 16 July 2021 Site information    Accessibility statement