United States Targets Burmese Military Forces for Repression of Pro-Democracy Protests

March 22, 2021

WASHINGTON – Today, the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) sanctioned two individuals and two entities connected to the Burmese military and its violent repression of pro-democracy protests. Treasury took these actions in response to the Burmese military’s continued campaign of violence and intimidation against peaceful protesters and civil society. 

“The Burmese security forces’ lethal violence against peaceful protesters must end,” said Director of the Office of Foreign Assets Control Andrea M. Gacki. “Treasury will continue to use the full range of our authorities to promote accountability for the actions of the Burmese military and police. We continue to stand with the people of Burma.” 

Treasury designated Than Hlaing pursuant to Executive Order 14014, “Blocking Property With Respect to the Situation in Burma” (E.O. 14014), for being a foreign person determined to be or have been a leader of the Burma Police Force, an entity that has, or whose members have, engaged in actions or policies that prohibit, limit, or penalize the exercise of freedom of expression or assembly by people in Burma. Than Hlaing was appointed Chief of the Burma Police Force and Deputy Home Affairs Minister on February 2, 2021. Since then, Burma’s police have engaged in brutal acts of violence against pro-democracy protesters. Under Than Hlaing’s leadership, the Burma Police Force has gone from attacking peaceful protesters with water cannons, rubber bullets, and tear gas, to using live ammunition; this escalation culminated in police killing dozens of peaceful protesters all across Burma on March 14, 2021, including 37 in the Rangoon suburb of Hlaingthaya. This bloody day brought the cumulative death toll from the peaceful protests to an estimated 140 people, with additional deaths since that time.

Treasury is also designating the 33rd Light Infantry Division of the Burmese Army (33 LID) and the 77th Light Infantry Division of the Burmese Army (77 LID), pursuant to E.O. 14014, for being responsible for or complicit in, or for having directly or indirectly engaged or attempted to engage in, actions or policies that prohibit, limit, or penalize the exercise of freedom of expression or assembly by people in Burma. The deployment of the 33 LID into Mandalay and the 77 LID into Rangoon have resulted in instances of excessive force, including killings, by security forces. OFAC previously designated the 33 LID on August 17, 2018, pursuant to E.O. 13818 for engaging in serious human rights abuse against the Rohingya. Members of this notorious military unit were among the security forces that, on February 20, 2021, fired live rounds into a crowd of protesting dockyard workers in the country’s second city, Mandalay, killing two and injuring several others. Both the 33 LID and the 77 LID are part of the Burmese security forces’ apparent implementation of a planned, systematic crackdown involving ramped-up use of lethal force and killing of protestors. Video footage shows security forces riding pick-up trucks while apparently indiscriminately firing live ammunition in multiple directions, including into people’s homes. 

Additionally, Treasury is designating Lieutenant General Aung Soe pursuant to E.O. 14014 for being a leader or official of the military or security forces of Burma. Lt. Gen. Aung Soe is a Bureau of Special Operations commander and reports directly to commander-in-chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, who was designated by OFAC on December 10, 2019, pursuant to E.O. 13818, and on February 11, 2021, pursuant to E.O. 14014. Regional commands under Aung Soe’s control have participated in the vicious attacks on peaceful protests. These soldiers were armed with weapons meant for the battlefield, not police actions, demonstrating that lethal force is being used in a planned, premeditated, and coordinated manner against the anti-coup protests.

SANCTIONS IMPLICATIONS

All property and interests in property of these persons that are blocked pursuant to E.O. 13818 continue to be blocked. Additionally, pursuant to E.O. 14014, all property and interests in property of the individuals and entities named above, and of any entities that are owned, directly or indirectly, 50 percent or more by them, individually or with other blocked persons, that are in the United States or in the possession or control of U.S. persons, are blocked and must be reported to OFAC. Unless authorized by a general or specific license issued by OFAC or otherwise exempt, OFAC’s regulations generally prohibit all transactions by U.S. persons or within (or transiting) the United States that involve any property or interests in property of designated or otherwise blocked persons.

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