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US targets state-owned Myanmar timber, pearl businesses with new sanctions

US targets state-owned Myanmar timber, pearl businesses with new sanctions
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The U.S. blacklisted two state-owned Myanmar companies Wednesday over the military junta’s coup in February.

The State Department announced that it would sanction Myanma Timber Enterprise and Myanmar Pearl Enterprise, two companies that oversee timber and pearl exports from the country.

The Biden administration says these two companies enrich the government.

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“Our action today reinforces our message to the military that the United States will continue to target specific funding channels and promote accountability for the coup and related violence,” said Secretary of State Antony BlinkenAntony BlinkenBiden 'confident' meeting with Putin will take place soon Blinken calls for Taiwan to join World Health Assembly in opposition to China US general warns China is actively seeking to set up an Atlantic naval base MORE. “We will continue to support the people of Burma in their efforts to reject this coup, and we call on the military regime to cease violence, release all those unjustly detained, and restore Burma’s path to democracy.” 

The sanctions announced Wednesday will prohibit U.S. companies and individuals from doing business with the two firms. They also freeze any properties the companies own under U.S. jurisdiction.

“The Burmese military derives significant funding from state-owned enterprises in the natural resources market. Today’s action demonstrates the United States’ commitment to targeting this specific funding channel and promoting accountability for those responsible for the coup and ongoing violence,” Office of Foreign Assets Control Director Andrea Gacki said in a statement.

The penalties are just the latest the U.S. has imposed in Myanmar’s military junta, which overthrew the civilian government in its Feb. 1 coup.

The Treasury Department earlier this month slapped similar sanctions on Myanma Gems Enterprise, a government-owned firm that oversees all gemstone activities in the country, a lucrative industry given that Myanmar is the world's main source of jade and a top producer of rubies and other gems. 

U.S. officials have railed against the junta’s takeover and imprisonment of a slew of civilian leaders, including leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

More than 3,300 people have been arrested since the protests began, and more than 739 have been killed, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, which has been tracking the developments in the country.