In a significant move, the United States has imposed sanctions on the Myanma Oil and Gas Enterprise (Moge), marking the first time the U.S. has directly targeted the entity responsible for providing Myanmar’s ruling junta with a substantial source of foreign revenue. This action, announced by the Treasury Department, prohibits specific financial services by Americans to the state-owned oil and gas enterprise, effective from December 15, 2023. These financial services encompass loans, accounts, insurance, investments, and various other related activities.
Sanctions Target Junta’s Main Revenue Source
The oil and gas sector stands as the largest source of foreign-currency revenue for Myanmar’s military junta, generating a substantial $1.72 billion in revenue for the six months leading up to March 31, 2022, according to junta figures. Moge, under junta control, plays a pivotal role in regulating the country’s oil and gas assets, making it a critical part of the junta’s financial structure.
Since the military coup in February 2021, over 4,162 people have tragically lost their lives, and 25,363 individuals have been arrested, as reported by the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners. The United Nations special rapporteur on Myanmar has accused the regime of committing daily war crimes and crimes against humanity.
Business Complications and Future Prospects
While these new sanctions will undoubtedly complicate business interactions with Moge, the U.S. has refrained from adding the enterprise to the specially designated nationals list. This list would effectively expel Moge from the U.S. banking system, prohibit trade with Americans, and freeze its assets in the United States.
Response and Reactions
The nation has been embroiled in crisis since the 2021 military coup and the subsequent deadly crackdown that fueled a nationwide resistance movement, garnering support from various ethnic minority armies.
Despite international calls to cease hostilities, the junta continues to justify its actions, referring to its efforts as a fight against “terrorists.” Rights groups and United Nations experts have accused the military of committing atrocities against civilians.
Benedict Rogers, East Asia Team Leader at the London-based human rights charity Christian Solidarity Worldwide, told 19FortyFive that sanctions, “are very welcome and significant, if long overdue. They are the latest in a series of sanctions imposed on Myanmar’s military regime by the US, Canada, the UK, the EU and others since the coup in 2021, and they are among the most effective, targeting the largest source of finance for the Myanmar junta.
“However, the US should go further and blacklist MOGE from the US banking system. The US and others in the international community should do everything possible to cut the lifeline of funds, fuel and arms to the military dictatorship, in order to impede its bombing of civilians, and at the same time provide a lifeline to the people of Myanmar, through humanitarian aid to the internally displaced through cross-border delivery.”
Human rights advocates have long advocated for sanctions on Moge, and Washington’s decision to impose sanctions represents a significant shift in U.S. policy. In June, the U.S. had previously issued sanctions against the state-owned Myanmar Foreign Trade Bank and Myanma Investment and Commercial Bank.
Myanmar military officials have downplayed the impact of these sanctions, but the international community remains committed to putting pressure on the junta and holding them accountable for their actions.
Georgia Gilholy is a journalist based in the United Kingdom who has been published in Newsweek, The Times of Israel, and the Spectator. Gilholy writes about international politics, culture, and education.