The European Union has imposed a sixth round of sanctions on Myanmar, in light of the ruling military junta’s “continuing escalation of violence, grave human rights violations and threats to the peace, security, and stability” of the country.
In a statement issued Monday, the European Council announced the imposition of asset freezes and travel bans on 16 individuals and entities. These included the junta’s energy minister, high-ranking officers, and prominent businesspeople, as well as departments of the ministry of defense and private companies thought to be supplying fuel, arms, and funds to the military.
After this latest round of sanctions, restrictive measures now apply to a total of 93 individuals and 18 entities linked to the armed forces, the statement added.
Brussels’ announcement came three weeks after the second anniversary of the February 1, 2021, coup d’etat, which has given way to a nationwide conflicts between the military and an array of opponents. According to the most recent humanitarian update from the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, released in December, an estimated 1.5 million people are currently displaced in Myanmar, 1.1 million of whom have been displaced by conflict and insecurity since the coup. It claims that 34,000 civilian properties have been destroyed.
Monday’s statement said that the EU “condemns in the strongest possible terms” the array of serious human rights violations that the military has committed since the coup, including the broad offensive against civil society and the press, attacks on civilians – including air strikes by the Myanmar Air Force – and the targeting of “children and persons belonging to ethnic and religious minorities.”
It added, “Those responsible for the coup, as well as the perpetrators of violence and gross human rights violations, should be held accountable.”
The EU announced its first round of sanctions in March 2021, targeting 10 high-ranking Myanmar military officials and the junta-appointed chairperson of the Union Election Commission, who formally canceled the results of the 2020 elections. As the situation has deteriorated further, it has followed this with subsequent batches of targeted measures in April 2021, June 2021, February 2022, and November 2022.
Ahead of the second anniversary of the coup, the EU said that it was prepared to adopt “further restrictive measures” against both those directly responsible for the country’s current turmoil, and those aiding and abetting its goals.
These sanctions, like the others imposed by Western governments since the coup, mark a further incremental tightening of the financial noose around Myanmar’s military, but are unlikely to make much difference to its long-term survival. The armed forces have deep connections to Myanmar’s outsized informal and illicit economies, and have long experience of surviving under Western sanctions and trade embargoes. The EU’s limited economic ties to Myanmar also serve to limit the impact of any targeted measures.
With this in mind, additional sanctions function more as an expression of moral outrage – an important one, to be sure – than as practical steps aimed at ending the military’s abuses.