October 15, 2020

Toothless UK sanctions targeting 16 individuals from the Burmese military and security services have not resulted in any reported assets being frozen, according to a new report published by the British government.

The Office of Financial Sanctions Implementation, under HM Treasury, published its Annual Review 2019-2020 on 9th October. Once again no assets from individuals from Burma are reported to be frozen.  The report sets an arbitrary cut off amount that it does not report figures under £3.5 million. It is highly unlikely that any assets at all from Burma have been frozen as a result of these sanctions. British government ministers have previously been forced to concede it was unlikely that these individuals being sanctioned had any assets in the UK.

Burma Campaign UK has been trying to obtain details of the exact amount, if any, of assets frozen as the result of these sanctions, and the HM Treasury has repeatedly refused to disclose the amount.

The government has employed a variety of excuses for not disclosing the amount, ranging from GDPR data protections laws, FOI laws, and EU regulations. However, the OFSI does list the amounts of assets frozen relating to four countries. The government has so far not explained why it cannot release information about assets frozen regarding Burma but can release information for other countries.

Burma Campaign UK is continuing to try to obtain this information using the Freedom of Information Act, but is being met with a variety of inconsistent and contradictory responses as to why the information has to be kept secret. Given that these sanctions are the main British government action against the Burmese military in response to Rohingya genocide, it is clearly in the public interest to know what assets have been frozen.

The British government has refused to implement the recommendation of the UN Fact-Finding Mission to sanction Burmese military companies, and refuses to join The Gambia and other countries bringing a case of genocide against Burma at the International Court of Justice. Instead they have imposed an asset freeze which has frozen no assets and a visa ban which amounts to nothing more than a holiday ban.

“The main British government action against the Burmese military in response to genocide of the Rohingya is this asset freeze, but in fact no assets have been frozen,” said Mark Farmaner, Director of Burma Campaign UK. “These are toothless sanctions and the British government appears to be trying to cover this up. Symbolic measures do not constitute an effective response to genocide.”

The Annual Review is available here.


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