UK Slaps Sanctions on Notorious Crony of Myanmar Junta

By The Irrawaddy 3 September 2021

In its latest move to limit the Myanmar junta’s access to financial and economic resources, the UK government has imposed sanctions against Myanmar tycoon U Tay Za and his businesses for providing financial support and arms to the military.

Notorious arms broker and long-time military crony U Tay Za is the founder and chairman of the Htoo Group and runs a large business network including banks, airlines and hotels. He has lived in Singapore for years and his connections with Myanmar’s present and past regimes are known to be deep.

In May, U Tay Za joined a Myanmar military delegation on a trip to Russia, where the generals discussed more than 20 megadeals including procurement of arms and military hardware.

The UK’s Foreign Office said in a statement on Thursday that U Tay Za is associated with the military “through his extensive links with the former and current junta regimes and has provided support for serious human rights violations in his role in assisting the military to procure arms.”

It said the UK would freeze all UK assets held by Htoo Group and U Tay Za, and ban him from entering the country. The sanctions will also prevent others from providing funds or economic resources to the tycoon and his companies.

UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said the new sanctions came as “The military junta has shown no signs of halting its brutal attack on the people of Myanmar.

“Along with our partners, the UK will continue to restrict the junta’s access to finance and the supply of arms used to kill innocents, including children, and target those who support the junta’s actions,” he said.

The statement added that U Tay Za contributed funds to the 2017 military campaign against the Rohingya, which has been labeled genocide, in western Myanmar, citing a report issued by a UN fact-finding mission in 2019.

In 2008, U Tay Za was placed on the United States’ Specially Designated Nationals (SDN) sanctions list for providing support to the previous junta, including the purchase of military equipment and aircraft, according to a statement at the time.

He is also believed to be close to U Aye Ko, another arms broker for the military, who was behind the assassination plot against Myanmar’s UN Ambassador U Kyaw Moe Tun.

Following the military coup on Feb. 1, in which the military overthrew Myanmar’s elected civilian government, the UK and other Western nations have imposed targeted sanctions against the military, it associates and military-linked businesses, and called for the restoration of democracy in the country.

From February to June, the UK issued six separate announcements imposing sanctions on Myanmar generals and the military’s businesses, including military-linked gemstone, pearl and timber companies. Sanctions have also been imposed against the junta’s governing body, the State Administration Council.

From Feb. 1 to Sept. 2, the junta has killed more than 1,000 people and arrested over 7,700, with more than 6,100 remaining in detention, according to advocacy group the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners.

In June, the UK also urged in a UN General Assembly Resolution that UN member states prevent the flow of arms to Myanmar.

The UK said the new sanctions follow the G7 countries’ commitment to ensure that the supply of arms and technical assistance to Myanmar is halted.

Under the UK’s presidency, the G7 continues to call for a return to democracy, an end to the violence and the immediate adoption of ASEAN’s 5-point consensus on Myanmar, including the release of State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and other political prisoners, it added.

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