On February 10, 2021, in response to the February 1, 2021, military coup in Myanmar (Burma),[1] President Biden issued an executive order (the Burma EO)[2] authorizing the imposition of blocking sanctions against a range of individuals and entities.  Concurrently, the U.S. Department of the Treasury, Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) designated 10 individuals (two of the individuals were already designated under a different sanctions authority) and three entities on the list of Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons.  All property and interests in property of persons sanctioned under the Burma EO are blocked and all transactions within U.S. jurisdiction in which a sanctioned person has an interest are prohibited.  Sanctions also extend to any entity directly or indirectly 50% or more owned by one or more sanctioned persons or entities.

At this time, the new sanctions are much narrower than those imposed on Myanmar in previous iterations of the Burma sanctions program.  However, the Burma EO provides authority for future expansion.  Under the Burma EO, the Administration has authority to sanction any person determined to:

  • operate in the defense sector of the Burmese economy or any other sector of the Burmese economy as may be determined by the Secretary of the Treasury;
  • be responsible for or complicit in, or to have directly or indirectly engaged or attempted to engage in: (1) actions or policies that undermine democratic processes or institutions in Myanmar, (2) actions or policies that threaten the peace, security, or stability of Myanmar, (3) actions or policies that prohibit, limit, or penalize the exercise of freedom of expression or assembly by people in Myanmar, or that limit access to print, online, or broadcast media in Myanmar, or (4) the arbitrary detention or torture of any person in Myanmar or other serious human rights abuse in Myanmar;
  • be or have been a leader or official of: (1) the military or security forces of Myanmar, (2) the government of Myanmar on or after February 2, 2021, (3) an entity that has, or whose members have, engaged in any activity described in (1)-(4) above, or (4) an entity sanctioned under the Burma EO;
  • be a political subdivision, agency, or instrumentality of the government of Myanmar;
  • be a spouse or adult child of any person sanctioned under the Burma EO;
  • be owned or controlled by, or to have acted on behalf of, directly or indirectly, the military or security forces of Myanmar or any person sanctioned under the Burma EO; or
  • have materially assisted, sponsored, or provided financial, material, or technological support for, or goods or services to or in support of any person sanctioned pursuant to the Burma EO.

According to public statements from President Biden, the Burma EO is one of a series of steps the U.S. government is taking to prevent Burmese military generals from having access to the $1 billion in Burmese government funds held in the United States.  President Biden also said that the U.S. government will impose new export controls on Burma.

Update: On February 17, 2021, the U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) announced that it will apply, effective immediately, a presumption of denial when reviewing license applications for items subject to the Export Administration Regulations (EAR) requiring a license for export or reexport when destined to Burma’s Ministry of Defense, Ministry of Home Affairs, armed forces, and security forces, and has suspended certain license exceptions that would otherwise be available to Burma as a result of being included in Country Group B under the EAR.[3]

[1]      Although the United Nations recognizes the official name of the country as “Myanmar,” the United States Government still uses the name “Burma.”  To avoid confusion, we use “Burma” when discussing the Executive Order.

[2]      Exec. Order No. 14014, “Blocking Property With Respect to the Situation in Burma,” 86 Fed. Reg. 9429 (Feb. 12, 2021).

[3]      U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of Industry and Security, “Implementation of Sanctions: Burma” (filed Feb. 17, 2021), available at https://www.federalregister.gov/public-inspection/2021-03350/implementation-of-sanctions-burma.  The suspended license exceptions include: (i) shipments of limited value (LVS) (Section 740.3 of the EAR); (ii) shipments to group B countries (GBS) (Section 740.4 of the EAR); (iii) technology and software under restriction (TSR) (Section 740.6 of the EAR); and (iv) computers (APP) (Section 740.7 of the EAR).