Burma Banks Sanctioned

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The Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control announced yesterday that it has designated Burma’s Ministry of Defense and two regime-controlled financial institutions that facilitate much of the foreign currency exchange within Burma and enable transactions between the military regime and foreign markets, including for the purchase and import of arms and related materiel.

Burma’s Ministry of Defense is responsible for the command and control of the armed forces, which has conducted decades of repressive military rule that was violently resumed following the coup in 2021, according to Treasury. Since the coup, the Ministry of Defense has continued to import goods and materiel worth at least $1 billion, including from sanctioned entities in Russia. These imports have both provided revenue to Russia and provided access to military equipment that has facilitated the ongoing brutality inflicted on the people of Burma by the military.

Myanma Foreign Trade Bank and Myanma Investment and Commercial Bank are state-owned financial institutions in Burma that primarily function as foreign currency exchanges and enable the conversion of kyat to U.S. dollars and euros and the reverse.

This conversion allows Burma’s revenue-generating state-owned enterprises, including Myanma Oil and Gas Enterprise, access to international markets using offshore accounts and to transact more easily with foreign entities. While the banks allow MOGE and other state-owned enterprises access to foreign markets for revenue generation, these financial institutions also enable the Defense Ministry and other sanctioned military entities to purchase arms and other materials from foreign sources.

“Burma’s military regime has leveraged state-run access to international markets to import weapons and materiel, including from sanctioned Russian entities, to continue its violence and oppression,” Treasury Undersecretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Brian Nelson said.