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Graphic shows foreign companies doing business with Myanmar’s military cartels.


Myanmar military cartels sanctioned by U.S. and UK

By Duncan Mil

March 26, 2021 - The U.S. has imposed sanctions on two of Myanmar’s military cartels, Myanmar Economic Holdings Limited (MEHL) and Myanmar Economic Corporation (MEC).

Both military-owned cartels provide “dark money” to coup leader and Tatmadaw (army) commander General Min Aung Hlaing.

The February 1 coup has focussed the spotlight on the sprawling business interests of Myanmar’s Tatmadaw. The Burmese military began getting involved when Prime Minister Ne Win moved to nationalise the economy as part of his “Burmese way to Socialism” in the wake of the 1962 coup.

The Tatmadaw’s crony capitalism secured access to many sectors of the economy, including some of its most lucrative industries.

The move away from military rule in Myanmar began in 2012 when Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy won 40 out of 45 available parliamentary seats. Her calls for foreign direct investment (FDI) rapidly paid off. According to official statistics, FDI peaked at $9.5 billion in 2015.

In 2020, FDI was worth $5.5bn. Most came from Singapore, 34 per cent, followed by Hong Kong, with 26 per cent.

Washington’s latest move freezes any assets held by the cartels in the United States. It also prohibits U.S. companies or citizens from trading or conducting financial transactions with MEHL and MEC.

U.S. Department of the Treasury statement laid bare the extent of the armed forces’ involvement in the economy. MEHL has 1,793 institutional shareholders, including regional military commands and subordinate battalions, divisions, platoons, squadrons, and border guard forces.

Britain’s Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab announced the UK would also target MEHL. The European Union announced sanctions on 11 individuals on Monday (March 22).

PUBLISHED: 26/03/2021; STORY: Graphic News