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The United States blacklists military companies in Myanmar after a bloody crackdown

Armed riot police were seen near anti-coup protesters in Naypyitaw last month. (AP photo)

Two sources familiar with the matter said on Wednesday that the United States plans to impose sanctions on two groups controlled by the Myanmar military over the February 1 coup and the deadly crackdown.

Sources said the move by the US Treasury to blacklist Myanmar Economic Corporation (MEC) and Myanmar Economic Holdings Limited (MEHL) and freeze any assets they have in the US could come as early as Thursday.

The generals seized power on the first day of Parliament in February, and arrested civilian leaders, including Nobel Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi, whose party won the election in November.

The army claimed fraud was cast, but observers said there were no major irregularities.

The coup sparked a large-scale uprising, and the security forces responded with violence, killing at least 275 people.

US President Joe Biden issued an Executive Order on February 11th that paves the way for new sanctions against the Myanmar military and its interests.

The order froze about $ 1 billion in reserves that the Myanmar central bank was keeping at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, from which the junta tried to withdraw after the seizure of power.

The United States and Britain, as well as the European Union and Canada, have already imposed some sanctions against top generals, including Commander-in-Chief Min Aung Hling and the president’s adult children.

But aside from three gem companies hit by US sanctions in February, and the US Commerce Department’s blacklisting for exports against conglomerates, the sanctions have not yet targeted the military’s commercial interests.

The military controls vast swaths of Myanmar’s economy through holding companies and subsidiaries, with interests ranging from beer and cigarettes to communications, tires, mining and real estate.

Activists have called for sanctions to starve military revenues, and they want governments to go further and hit the oil and gas projects that are a major source of Myanmar’s revenue.

The White House National Security Council referred inquiries to the Treasury, which did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

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