The United States government has imposed a ban on financial transactions involving the Myanmar state-owned oil company, the Myanma Oil and Gas Enterprise (MOGE), in a long overdue move aimed at stanching the junta’s atrocities.
MOGE’s natural gas projects generate over US$1 billion annually for the Myanmar junta, its single largest source of foreign revenue. Since the February 2021 coup, that flow of funding has underwritten crimes against humanity and war crimes carried out by the junta across the country.
Unlike other junta-controlled entities that the US has sanctioned since the coup, MOGE wasn’t added to the Specially Designated Nationals (SDN) list, which blocks trade, assets, and access to the US banking system. Instead, the US Treasury Department issued a directive prohibiting persons and companies under the jurisdiction of the US from directly or indirectly providing financial services to MOGE, including deposits, transfers, loans, insurance, investments, foreign exchange, and other services. The ban goes into effect on December 15.
“Through the issuance of a financial services directive against MOGE, the United States seeks to disrupt the regime’s access to the US financial system and curtail its ability to perpetrate atrocities,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in an October 31 statement.
This sanctions action belatedly follows the European Union’s sanctioning of MOGE in February 2022, which led the Bank of China to advise operators of the Shwe gas field in the Bay of Bengal that it would no longer handle payments in euros to MOGE, reportedly moving the funds to escrow accounts.
Lax enforcement of the existing sanctions regime has sustained the junta’s flow of weapons and funds, enabling its escalating brutality against Myanmar’s civilian population. Airstrikes in some regions have increased more than 300 percent in the past year.
The US also announced additional sanctions on five individuals and three entities involved in the junta’s abuses, in coordination with Canada and the United Kingdom, a positive step. Broad coordination and rigorous enforcement of sanctions are crucial for raising economic costs that the junta can’t ignore.