Within days of seizing power in Myanmar, the military rulers of the country attempted to withdraw about $1bn held at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York in the United States which prompted officials in the United States to freeze the money, said reports quoting sources with knowledge of the matter.
The established Fed safeguards were the first to block the transaction which was attempted on February 4 in the name of the Central Bank of Myanmar. An embargo on approving the transfer was then imposed by the US government officials. Later the US government blocked the transfer of the funds indefinitely following an executive order to that effect from US President Joe Biden.
There were no comments of the issue available from the New York Fed and the US Department of the Treasury.
This effort by the Myanmar military to move the money, which was not reported till now, happened after a new central bank governor was appointed by the military rules of the country while detaining reformist officials during the coup.
According to analysts, this was an effort by the Junta of Myanmar to reduce the impact of international sanctions because of the coup in which the military arrested elected officials, including de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who had been declared the winner of the national elections in held in the country in November. The coup, according to the military, was made because it deemed that election results were forged. These claims by the military have been rejected by the country’s electoral commission.
No comment on the reports was available from Myanmar’s military government.
After the coup and subsequent violent and deadly action against demonstrators, fresh sanctions were issued against the military rulers of Myanmar by the United States, Canada, the European Union and the United Kingdom. Since the coup, at least 54 people have been killed by the military while more than 1,700 people have been arrested including 29 journalists, said the United Nations on Thursday.
Measures were being taken by the US to prevent the generals from “improperly having access” to $1bn in Myanmar government funds, Biden said on February 10 after announcing a new executive order which cleared the path for imposing sanctions on the generals and their businesses.
At that point in time, no explanation of the statement was provided by US officials. However another executive order issued by Biden the very next day specifically named the Central Bank of Myanmar to be a part of the Myanmar’s military government. The seizure of assets of Myanmar’s post-coup government was authorised by the executive order.
The framing of the executive order was aimed at giving legal authority to the New York Fed to hold the $1bn worth of Myanmar reserves indefinitely, said reports quoting sources.
(Adapted from AlJazeera.com)