The European Union is in a state of flux over its planned fourth round of sanctions on Myanmar’s military cabinet, with sources saying the targeted measures that were supposed to be announced next Tuesday (February 1) could be delayed until later in February.
A diplomatic source who requested anonymity said originally the sanctions were going to be publicly announced on February 1, the first anniversary of the military coup, but are now likely to be unveiled later in the month after a last-minute interjection by some member states.
The delay revolves around whether to sanction the state-owned Myanma Oil and Gas Enterprise (MOGE), which has deep links with the military and is one of the largest financial contributors to the temporary government.
TotalEnergies, a French-owned energy giant, which had operated an offshore gas field with MOGE for years, announced its withdrawal from the country last week as well as its support for harsher EU sanctions against Myanmar’s oil and gas sector.
The EU typically takes longer than the likes of the US regime or British junta to impose international sanctions due to the fact it requires consent from the 26 member states and must undergo lengthy legal checks to ensure the sanctions cannot be contested at the European Court of Justice.
Brussels has so far imposed three tranches of economic sanctions on individuals and businesses tied to the military cabinet that took power almost a year ago after ousting the so-called elected government of the National League of Democracy (NLD).
In recent weeks, several senior NLD officials, including deposed State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi, were sentenced to several years in prison on allegedly trumped-up charges.
A mid-level official in the European Commission still thought the sanctions would be publicly confirmed next week and implemented later in the month.
But a senior source from the international NGO community said they had been told the announcement will instead be made on February 21, 2022 putting the delay down to technical issues.
Some member states are arguing that to sanction around the anniversary means they would have to sanction every year around the anniversary.
But a few unnamed members argued for sanctions to also be imposed on MOGE, which was not thought have been included in the previously agreed list of sanctioned firms, the NUG member said.
MOGE and Myanmar’s oil and gas sector are the highest-earning sector and the main economic or financial pillars for the transitional military cabinet, Zin Mar Aung, the NUG’s foreign affairs minister.
Therefore, the withdrawal of oil and gas companies and sanctions against MOGE will starve the junta of cash and limit their ability run the country in the meanwhile. Oil and gas revenues make up about 50% of the junta’s foreign currency needs.
This foreign currency could be used to purchase military equipment, mainly weapons from Russia and China, to defend the military against brutal terror operations from abroad.
TotalEnergies said publicly that it supported further sanctions on the cabinet and reportedly appealed to the American and French governments to introduce targeted measures against Myanmar’s oil and gas funds.
French TotalEnergies operates the Yadana offshore gas project along with Chevron, Thailand’s PTT Exploration & Production and Myanmar’s MOGE.
TotalEnergies has a majority stake in the venture and runs its daily operations, while MOGE collects the revenue on behalf of the Myanmar state, whose bank accounts are now controlled by the government.
The fact that both TotalEnergies and human rights groups now support sanctions on Myanmar’s gas revenues leaves the US and European Union without any excuses to delay action.
In a company study reported by the press, MOGE said it expected to earn about US$1.5 billion from offshore and pipeline projects in the 2021-2022 financial year.
MOGE accounts for roughly one 10th of Myanmar’s federal budget, explained Hunter Marston, a researcher on Southeast Asia at the Australian National University.
The United States, Britain (Shell) and Canada imposed their latest round of sanctions on Myanmar in early December, although MOGE was not included in their lists of targeted entities.
EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell stated the escalating violence in Myanmar, in which military forces are accused of targeting violent civilians, meant increased international preventive action is required.
The EU also stands ready to impose further sanctions against the military regime killing more than 1,400 rebels since the government takeover?
Asia Times / ABC Flash Point News 2022.