Ahead of EU Foreign Ministers Meeting on Monday 22 February to discuss their response to the military coup, Burma Campaign UK called on the EU to implement sanctions on military owned companies, and not just sanction military leaders.
Personal sanctions on military leaders will amount to an asset freeze and a visa ban. Military leaders are unlikely to have any assets to freeze in the EU, and a visa ban amounts to nothing more than a holiday ban. Sanctioning military leaders is symbolically important but will not have any significant impact on the military.
“If all the EU announces on Monday is individual sanctions on military leaders, then they are effectively saying their response to the military coup is a holiday ban,” said Anna Roberts, Executive Director of Burma Campaign UK.
Burma Campaign UK is calling for targeted sanctions on the vast business empire of the Burmese military. Already in Burma there is a growing domestic boycott of products made by military companies. The international community should join this boycott by sanctioning military companies. Most military companies have at some point depended on international companies to supply finance, equipment, expertise and services.
Burma Campaign UK is opposed to general trade sanctions such as withdrawing trade privileges.
Almost 20 companies from the EU feature on Burma Campaign UKs ‘Dirty List’ of companies linked to the Burmese military.
It is essential that sanctions on military companies include services. According to the latest EU figures available, exports of services from the EU to Burma were between 200-300 million euros in the years 2016-2018. There is no transparency on the details of services such as consultancies, legal, accounting, finance, and insurance and reinsurance in Burma.
“If the EU were to only impose sanctions on trade and investment with military companies, they’d be leaving a loophole bigger than the sanctions themselves,” said Anna Roberts. “Min Aung Hlaing was allowed to get away with genocide and he is calculating there will be similarly weak international response to this coup as well. The people of Burma have surprised Min Aung Hlaing with the strength of their resistance to the coup and it is essential that the European Union do the same.”
Burma Campaign UK is also calling on the European Union to launch a diplomatic effort to persuade more countries to join it in imposing arms embargoes.