U.S., Britain, Canada issue new Myanmar sanctions one year after coup

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks during a briefing at the State Department in Washington, U.S., January 26, 2022. Brendan Smialowski/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo

WASHINGTON, Jan 31 (Reuters) - The United States, Britain and Canada on Monday imposed sanctions against additional officials in Myanmar, in measures timed to mark one year since the military seized power and plunged the country into chaos.

A joint action by the three nations, who have all already imposed sanctions on Commander-in-Chief Min Aung Hlaing and other members of the junta, targeted judicial officials involved in prosecutions against deposed Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi.

Washington also slapped sanctions on a directorate responsible for buying weapons for the junta from overseas, an alleged arms dealer and a company it said provides financial support to the junta.

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The military has detained Suu Kyi and members of her National League for Democracy (NLD) party since the Feb. 1, 2021, coup. The military complained of fraud in a November 2020 election that the NLD won in a landslide. Monitors said the vote reflected the will of the country's people.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the coordinated action demonstrated international support for Myanmar's people and would "further promote accountability for the coup and the violence perpetrated by the regime," citing nearly 1,500 people killed and 10,000 detained by a military seeking to consolidate control.

A U.N. team of investigators on Myanmar said on Monday it was preparing files that could facilitate prosecutions against those responsible for atrocities committed over the past year.

"Those who are considering committing crimes should be aware that serious international crimes have no statute of limitations," Nicholas Koumjian, head of the Geneva-based Independent Investigative Mechanism for Myanmar, said in a statement.

JUDICIAL OFFICIALS TARGETED

The U.S. Treasury said it added a total of seven individuals and two entities to its sanctions list on Monday. They included the junta's attorney general, Thida Oo, whose office it said had crafted politically motivated charges against Suu Kyi.

Suu Kyi is on trial in more than a dozen cases and has so far been sentenced to a combined six years in detention. She denies all charges.

The Treasury also listed the Myanmar Supreme Court's chief justice and the chairman of the Anti-Corruption Commission, who it said were also involved in the prosecution of Suu Kyi and NLD leaders.

The action freezes any U.S. assets of those blacklisted and generally bars Americans from dealing with them.

"As long as the regime continues to deny the people of Burma their democratic voice, we will continue to impose further costs on the military and its supporters," U.S. President Joe Biden said in a statement on Monday condemning Myanmar's military rulers.

Canada announced it was adding the same three judicial officials to its sanctions list. Britain announced it was listing the attorney general and corruption commission chair as well as the junta-appointed chair of Myanmar's election commission.

Washington also added the army's procurement directorate, which it said buys weapons overseas; an alleged arms dealer, Tay Za, and his two adult sons; and KT Services & Logistics Company Ltd and its Chief Executive Jonathan Myo Kyaw Thaung.

That company, which Treasury said leases a port in Yangon from a military-owned company for $3 million a year, is part of KT Group, a conglomerate that has done business with companies from Singapore, Thailand and the Philippines.

Paul Donowitz, campaign leader at advocacy group Global Witness, said Monday's actions "have reminded Myanmar’s business community that there are consequences for facilitating the military’s arms purchases and business interests."

The measures fell short of targeting Myanmar's natural gas revenues, the junta's largest source of foreign currency, Donowitz said.

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Reporting by Simon Lewis in Washington; additional reporting by Chris Gallagher; Editing by Tim Ahmann and Matthew Lewis

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