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US legislators pass bill targeting Mynamar's military and its economic interests

The US House of Representatives Committee on Foreign Affairs passed legislation last week to hold Myanmar’s military accountable and target their economic interests with sanctions.

The Burma Unified through Rigorous Military Accountability Act of 2018 (BURMA Act) imposes targeted sanctions and travel restrictions on senior Myanmar military officials responsible for human rights abuses against the Rohingya people.

The bill also sought to empower civil society to reclaim their economy. Noting the militarisation of the gemstone economy, the bill said illicit trafficking “deprives the people of Burma and the civilian government of critical revenue and instead benefits military-linked entities, non-state armed groups and transitional organised criminal networks.”

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“When passed into law the BURMA Act of 2018 will bring much needed transparency to companies producing and exporting gemstones from Myanmar to the US market by establishing a list of companies who have disclosed their real owners and are not owned or controlled by the military and current or former senior military officers,” said a researcher from NGO Global witness Paul Donowitz.

The bill identifies clear steps the government of Myanmar should take, including requiring companies to publicly disclose their ownership.

“Dismantling the army’s monopoly over vast swathes of Myanmar’s economy, including the lucrative jade and gemstone industry, is fundamental to achieving sustainable democratic reform and ensuring an end to violence fuelled by fighting over control of natural resources,” added Mr Donowitz.