The US government has banned financial transactions with Myanmar’s state-owned oil company, Myanma Oil and Gas Enterprise (MOGE), in a long-overdue move to curb the junta’s atrocities.
MOGE’s natural gas projects generate more than $1 billion annually for Myanmar’s junta, its largest source of foreign income. Since the February 2021 coup, this funding stream has funded crimes against humanity and war crimes committed by the junta across the country.
Unlike other junta-controlled entities sanctioned by the United States since the coup, MOGE is not included in the list of Specially Designated Nationals (SDN), which blocks trade, assets, and access to the US banking system. However, the US Treasury Department issued a directive that prohibits persons and companies under US jurisdiction from directly or indirectly providing financial services to MOGE, including deposits, transfers, loans, insurance, investments, money exchange, and other services. The ban will begin on December 15.
“By issuing a financial services directive against MOGE, the United States seeks to destroy the regime’s access to the US financial system and reduce its ability to commit atrocities,” said Secretary of State Antony Blinken on October 31.
This sanction action comes late after the sanction imposed by the European Union on MOGE in February 2022, which led the Bank of China to inform the operators of the Shwe gas field in the Bay of Bengal that it would stop handling payments in euros to MOGE, apparently transferring the funds to escrow accounts.
Chevron, MOGE’s sole US partner, announced in February the sale of a 41.1% stake in the Yadana gas project to Canadian company MTI Energy.
The current sanctions regime’s lax enforcement has prevented the flow of arms and funds to the junta, enabling its increasing brutality against Myanmar’s civilian population. Airstrikes in some regions have increased by more than 300% in the past year.
The United States also announced additional sanctions against five individuals and three entities involved in junta abuses, in coordination with Canada and the United Kingdom, a positive step. Broad coordination and strict enforcement of sanctions are crucial to raising economic costs that the junta cannot ignore.