US launches new sanctions regime in response to Myanmar (Burmese) coup

In response to the 1 February 2021 coup in Myanmar (Burma), President Biden last week issued an Executive Order imposing sanctions on the Myanmar military.

The Executive Order, issued 11 February 2021, states that "the military overthrew the democratically elected civilian government of Burma and unjustly arrested and detained government leaders, politicians, human rights defenders, journalists, and religious leaders, thereby rejecting the will of the people of Burma as expressed in elections held in November 2020 and undermining the country’s democratic transition and rule of law." In a statement the same day, Treasury Secretary Yellen added that the US is "also prepared to take additional action should Burma’s military not change course."

The order allows for travel bans and asset freezes of inter alia persons identified by the Secretary of Treasury, in consultation with the Secretary of State, to "operate in the defence sector of the Burmese economy", or to be "responsible for or complicit in, or to have directly or indirectly engaged or attempted to engage in

(i) actions or policies that undermine democratic processes or institutions in Burma;
(ii) actions or policies that threaten the peace, security, or stability of Burma;
(iii) actions or policies that prohibit, limit, or penalize the exercise of freedom of expression or assembly by people in Burma, or that limit access to print, online, or broadcast media in Burma; or
(iv) the arbitrary detention or torture of any person in Burma or other serious human rights abuse in Burma;
"

Furthermore, sanctions may be imposed on identified leaders or officials of the military or security forces, the post-coup government, entities engaged in the actions described above, or of blocked entities pursuant to the order as a result of activities related to the leader or official's tenure. Sanctions may also be extended to inter alia identified political subdivisions of the government, spouses and adult children of blocked persons pursuant to the order, entities found to have materially assisted blocked persons pursuant to the order, as well as entities owned or controlled by the military or security forces or by blocked persons pursuant to the order.

As of yet, the Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) has designated 10 current and former a military officials identified as responsible for the coup or associated with the military regime, as well as three entities owned or controlled by the military or security forces. (The designations can be found at this link.)

President Biden announced the new sanctions in his remarks on 10 February, saying that the US is blocking access for the military regime to USD 1 billion in Myanmar government funds held in the United States.

US export control measures have also been implemented. According to a press release 11 February 2021, the Treasury Department's Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) will apply a presumption of denial for items requiring a license for export an reexport to Myanmar's Ministry of Defense, Ministry of Home Affairs, armed forces, and security services. Additionally, the BIS will suspend certain license exceptions previously available to Myanmar. The BIS is also assessing further actions, including Entity List additions, adding Myanmar to the list of countries subject to the Export Administration Regulations' (EAR) military end use and end user (MEU) restrictions and military intelligence end use and end user (MIEU) restrictions, as well as possibly downgrading Myanmar's Country Group status in the EAR.

EU sanctions may also be in the pipeline. On 9 February 2021, High Representative Josep Borell noted in a statement that the EU is considering amongst other measures "[t]argeted sanctions on individuals and on businesses owned by the military [..]" in response to the coup.


WR Sanctions Alerts provide you with updates on material developments in the country-specific sanctions programs implemented by the US, the UN, the UK, the EU and Norway. We will not provide updates on mere prolongations, without material changes, of existing sanctions programs, nor on any listings or de-listings of individuals/entities placed on implemented sanctions lists . Please note that the WR Sanctions Alerts are provided as general information and do not constitute legal advice.

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