Considered in Grand Committee
My Lords, the instrument before us was laid on 29 April under the powers provided by the Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Act 2018. It revokes and replaces the Burma (Sanctions) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019, which had previously established the UK’s sanctions regime in respect of Myanmar.
The 2019 regulations brought the policy effect of the EU’s Myanmar regime into UK law at the end of the transition period. This regime was designed as a response to the serious human rights violations committed by the Myanmar security forces, including widespread and systematic attacks on ethnic minorities and the ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya in 2017.
As noble Lords will be aware, on 1 February this year the Myanmar military launched a coup which disregarded the democratically expressed will of the Myanmar people, arresting Aung San Suu Kyi among many others. Peaceful protest has been met with brutal force, with over 700 civilians killed and more than 4,000 people detained. There are credible reports of torture. Humanitarian relief organisations have been refused access. Internet shutdowns, and the intimidation and persecution of civil society, have restricted access to information and journalistic freedoms.
Her Majesty’s Government are pressing the military to return power to the democratically elected Government of Myanmar, to protect the rights and freedoms of the Myanmar people, including their right to political protest, to release all those arbitrarily detained and to ensure the unobstructed humanitarian access that is so desperately needed.
Targeted sanctions are very much part of our collaborative response. However, the 2019 regulations did not contain purposes or designation criteria that would allow us to make designations in relation to the coup. The Government therefore took the decision to revoke and replace the 2019 regime.
The new regulations we are considering today expand the purposes and designation criteria from those set out in the previous 2019 regulations. Our new regime aims to: promote peace, security and stability in Myanmar; promote respect for democracy, the rule of law and good governance; discourage the repression of the civilian population; and promote compliance with international human rights law and respect for human rights.
As for designations, the regulations enable us to designate not only members of the Myanmar security forces but any other individuals or entities that meet the designation criteria, including those supporting the military junta. We are now able to designate people not only for committing serious human rights violations but for undermining democracy, the rule of law or good governance, repressing the civilian population, violating international humanitarian law, obstructing humanitarian assistance activity or any other action, policy or activity which threatens the peace, stability or security of Myanmar.
Significantly, the regulations now give us the power to list entities under our geographic regime, allowing us to target the military’s economic interests and demonstrating that we stand in solidarity with the domestic movement to boycott businesses linked to the military. In this respect, on 17 May we used these regulations to designate the Myanmar Gems Enterprise. Gems are a multibillion-dollar trade in Myanmar, and a key source of revenue for the military junta.
In addition to expanding the purposes and designation criteria, the new regulations create another licensing purpose for financial sanctions, enabling the Treasury to grant a licence to conduct otherwise prohibited activities if they are in connection with humanitarian assistance activity. This helps ensure that the effects of the sanctions are targeted and that there is no unintentional impact on humanitarian operations. The substance of the regulations before us is otherwise the same as set out in the previous legislation, and the types of sanctions measures permitted—financial, trade and immigration—have not changed.
It is important to note that the new regulations retain the comprehensive arms embargo which the UK worked to secure while we were a member of the European Union. They also retain trade prohibitions on dual-use items for military use, as well as items that could be used to intercept or monitor telecommunications and repress the civilian population. Finally, the regulations prohibit the provision of military-related services, including the provision of technical assistance to or for the benefit of the Myanmar security forces, which are defined to include the Tatmadaw, police force and border force.
Of course, sanctions are only one element of our response to the coup. We have been at the forefront of the international response, drawing on our presidencies of both the G7 and the UN Security Council, as well as our positive relationships with ASEAN member states and others in the region. At the G7 Foreign and Development Ministers’ meeting on 4 and 5 May this year, we ensured that G7 countries were aligned in calling for the military to restore democracy to Myanmar. We also succeeded in committing all G7 countries—for the first time—to preventing the supply, sale or transfer of weapons, munitions or other military-related equipment to Myanmar.
Similarly, our leadership at the UN Security Council has kept the issue at the forefront of the council’s agenda. We have secured a succession of strong council statements which condemn the violence, call for the release of political detainees and support Myanmar’s democratic transition. Crucially, we are working closely with civil society to build community resilience and help create the foundations for a more open, inclusive and democratic Myanmar.
However, sanctions provide an important tool to take concrete and meaningful steps that demonstrate to the junta that its actions have a cost and it cannot repress the population of Myanmar with impunity. Our designations have already undermined the credibility of the military junta and its governing body, the State Administration Council. They have reduced their access to key revenue streams. We are also considering further possible designations that would meet our objective of targeting the military’s revenue streams—which I know interests several noble Lords and has been raised before—while mitigating risk to the wider population.
In conclusion, the UK considers the recent actions of the military junta and the Myanmar security forces to be, frankly, abhorrent. They have undermined democracy, brutally repressed protests, arbitrarily detained thousands and, tragically, killed hundreds of innocent people. The regulations expand our powers to impose sanctions in response. They demonstrate that we will not accept such egregious violations of human rights. They enable us to stand with our international partners and, most importantly, with the people of Myanmar in working towards what we hope will be a peaceful and prosperous return to a democratic future for the country. I beg to move.
My Lords, the Myanmar sanctions regulations—81 regulations and four schedules—are welcome and necessary. I thank the Minister for his opening speech and reassurances, but they will be of limited utility if they are not vigorously and robustly enforced. The pressure on the Myanmar military must be maintained, and I am pleased to hear about trying to stop the sale of weapons and all that goes with that. Which countries have signed up to not give weapons? It is also important that there should be transparency on this issue.
The Government should commit to reveal the assets that are frozen. It is imperative that we know that and the sanctions on individuals, because we know that members of the press who come from outside the country are now being imprisoned, tortured and subjected to secret trials. They are unable to be in touch with lawyers, or their families. We know that the local media are forbidden to use certain language. I am not sure why this junta is so afraid if it believes what it says about the world knowing what it is up to.
We know this is bad. They are depriving children of basic education and health. Further, there is the whole issue of women being murdered in the streets and in their homes. We have to be much firmer with our colleagues on the whole question of weapons and on human rights. I am very pleased with what the Minister has said to reassure us, but there is still much more to be done.
My Lords, it seems fitting to focus on Myanmar today, the first day of Aung San Suu Kyi’s trial. The new regulations are extremely welcome, in that they are both comprehensive and stringent. The monitoring mechanisms set out in the regulations also appear to be circumvention-proof.
The generals who currently rule Myanmar appear impervious to international condemnation and even to the proposed severe sanctions imposed by the USA and France. It is therefore critical that external pressure be increased and sustained. The regulations would undoubtedly add to that pressure, but are there additional actions that the UK Government might take?
The UN Security Council is unlikely to be able to make any stronger condemnation than it already has, due to vetoes from China and Russia. This should not exclude other nations from adhering to the UN obligations under the responsibility to protect. The principles of R2P, accepted the world over at the UN General Assembly at 2005, make it clear that atrocities committed within Myanmar’s borders are not just a matter of internal business but the responsibility of all of us.
Concerted action by ASEAN states in the region to impose travel sanctions and be more vocal in their condemnation of the Tatmadaw regime would be welcome. Focus could also be given to those nations that are either unwilling or unable to monitor sufficiently the provision of resources that undermine democracy and contribute to the continued and severe repression of ethnic minorities in Myanmar as well as of peaceful citizens. What is the outcome of ASEAN’s recent discussion on the possibility of suspending Myanmar, an exclusion that would surely have a very marked effect?
It is clear that increased support is being provided to Myanmar by China and to some extent by Russia. Does the FCDO estimate that that support will in turn weaken the sanctions imposed by the UK and other nations?
The forthcoming G7 meeting, to which the Minister has referred, which will be hosted by the UK, is an opportune time to solicit international agreements and further action against Myanmar. Concerted and effective action to strengthen sanctions would have real impact on the regime’s behaviour. Furthermore, the comprehensive list of sanctioned materials in these regulations might form the basis of an internationally co-ordinated list of prohibited items.
Although the chances of the Myanmar crimes being referred to the International Criminal Court by the UN Security Council under the Rome statute are extremely slim, is the UK prepared to detain and try designated persons who may leave themselves open to arrest when travelling under the universal jurisdiction banner?
I have two further areas on which I would be most grateful to have the Minister’s answer. First, I understand that the impact of the new sanctions on UK businesses is considered to be minimal, and thus an annual review and report to Parliament is deemed unnecessary. What kind of estimate will be carried out of the impact of the sanctions, once enforced, on Myanmar itself? As I have said, there are comprehensive mechanisms to avoid circumvention of such sanctions, but inevitably loopholes will be there. Is the widely dispersed and hidden wealth of senior generals known and accounted for? It would be useful if the Minister could provide some idea of the actual cost to the regime in Myanmar when the sanctions are fully implemented.
Secondly, it is clear that humanitarian organisations are exempt from any of the sanctions set out in the regulations. Nevertheless, some international organisations work in extremely difficult areas—notably, the ethnic regions and among minorities including the Rohingya, the Shan, the Karen and the Mon—and are necessarily involved in providing resources such as food to communities that themselves contain armed militia, albeit working against the Tatmadaw machine. Is there any ambiguity that could limit the resources and the work of those humanitarian bodies? With all that said, I warmly welcome the regulations and thank the Minister.
My Lords, I begin by thanking my noble friend for opening the debate so clearly and with such conviction. I also refer to my interests in the register and, in particular, to my practice at the Bar involving cases to do with international human rights and sanctions law, as well as my recent appointment to the Taskforce on a Transatlantic Response to Illicit Finance, launched by the Royal United Services Institute only today.
These regulations are further evidence of a much-needed new approach to how the United Kingdom deals with regimes abroad whose activities offend the most basic of human rights and rule of law obligations. In permitting the Government to designate particular individuals, as opposed to countries or Governments, and to have a direct impact on their personal finances and ability to travel, they will have a direct effect on the people who lead the Governments or regimes through which and in whose name the abusive and criminal behaviour is carried out.
These regulations also reflect what the United States is doing. The Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control, or OFAC, is adding regulations to implement a Burma-related executive order introduced on 10 February 2021. OFAC intends to supplement these regulations with a more comprehensive set, which may include additional interpretive and definitional guidance, general licences, and other regulatory provisions.
Clearly, sanctions regimes work better if conducted multilaterally and not just by one country, no matter if that one country is the United States, but it would have been unthinkable to do nothing in the face of the widespread evidence of serious human rights violations perpetrated by the Myanmar security forces following the recent military coup. Prior to the coup in February, the UN independent international fact-finding mission had established consistent patterns of serious human rights violations and abuses in Kachin, Rakhine and Shan states and attributed responsibility to the Myanmar security forces, particularly the military. Atrocities committed by the Myanmar security forces include systematic burning of Rohingya villages, massacre, torture, arbitrary detention and targeted sexual violence.
These regulations give the Government the authority to designate particular individuals and to subject them to the restrictions listed in them; they do not identify the designated people. The sooner that the Government put into the public domain the names of the generals or other government leaders in Myanmar who have been found to have been responsible for the human rights and other abuses, the more effective the sanctions will be. I hope that my noble friend will shortly list the individuals caught by these sanctions so that the people of Myanmar, as well as those outside it, know what we have done and against whom the sanctions will bite. It would also be useful to specify the targeted assets and their value so that we can all see that these people are not only murderers and torturers but kleptocrats as well.
Myanmar is a relatively small country, and its leaders are an easy target. Hitting its generals may cause them some inconvenience—although, like the noble Baroness, Lady D’Souza, I should be interested to know whether any of them actually has assets or bank accounts in London. However, until China and Russia and a number of other larger countries are persuaded that supporting corrupt and cruel anti-democratic kleptocracies in Asia, eastern Europe, the Middle East or Africa is not good for their economies or the personal fortunes of their leaders, we will make very little progress, welcome as this small step may be. While congratulating the Government on these regulations, I therefore encourage them to do more.
My Lords, I welcome this debate and, like others, fear that for many in Myanmar this comes too late; they have been slaughtered by the junta. Along with the noble and learned Lord, Lord Garnier, I welcome the clear speech from the Minister.
I recall hearing Aung San Suu Kyi when she spoke to both our Houses here in Westminster Hall on 21 June 2012, as the first citizen of Asia with a long history of courage and resistance to a regime. Not one of us would have believed we would now be seeing the way that events have unfolded. We heard then of the history of unimaginable brutality in that country and of fear running through the veins of every citizen in Myanmar. We had cautious optimism then that under her leadership the people of Burma would be released from its history of violence.
Alas, that was not to be. Despite a landslide victory in the general election on 8 November 2020, the military-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party rejected the results and, as has been said, on 1 February this year the coup happened with an imposed state of emergency. Since then, the brutality of the Tatmadaw has known no bounds. To do nothing and say nothing would be to endorse its actions.
The Minister has outlined much of what we know and described the need for sanctions targeted on the military regime. I suggest that these regulations need strengthening and that the complex politics of the region—it has close links with its neighbouring countries—needs clarification to best target the sanctions against Myanmar and particularly the military regime.
Anyone protesting, calling for the democracy that had begun to emerge a few years earlier, is a target for the regime. Medical professionals have been systematically targeted. Unable to treat patients in hospitals, they are trying to provide care in makeshift clinics, despite the threat to their own lives in trying to help others. Healthcare workers have been killed, and the regime is in breach of the First Geneva Convention relating to medical neutrality in conflict. In Yangon province alone, at least 100 medical students have been arbitrarily arrested. This is also a gross violation of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, which was ratified by Myanmar in 2017.
Despite the internet being closed down, reports have come out from Myanmar of people who are listed on the television then being taken from their homes at night, and the following morning their mutilated bodies are returned to their families. They have undergone torture. Some have been split open and their bodies roughly sewn closed, and the family is instructed to cremate them immediately. The poet Khet Thi and his wife were both arrested. When she was told to go to the hospital the following day, she found that his body had been split open and his internal organs were missing. There are reports of young protesters in the streets being shot in the head and then, groaning and wounded, thrown into the back of army trucks, never to be seen alive again. Small children have been shot, some in their own homes.
According to witnesses to the Foreign Affairs Committee’s Myanmar crisis inquiry, 52% of the military hardware is supplied to the military regime by China, and the remainder mostly by India and Russia. As Britain holds the presidencies of both the G7 and the United Nations Security Council, as well as having a close relationship with Association of Southeast Asian Nations member states and others in the region, I ask the Government how we are using the leverage of these important positions to cut off the financial incentives to the junta’s regime of intimidation and terror.
My Lords, I thank the speakers who have preceded me for their contributions, all of which have been important, distinctive and supportive of what the Government are doing. The return of military dictatorship to Myanmar fills me with sadness and despair. So much hope that developed under democracy has been trampled in the dust, and violence and loss of life are widespread.
I have visited Myanmar several times, starting with a visit to refugee camps on the Thai-Burmese border with the International Development Committee in 2007, when we also met representatives of exiled Myanmar activists in Bangkok. That was when the military was in full control. We learned then of the horrific atrocities committed by the army against its own citizens, including the killing of parents and children in front of each other, rape and the most brutal and degrading of sexual assaults, and severe deprivation, illness and starvation. The military knows no bounds in its depravity.
Subsequent visits over the following 10 years coincided with the transition from military to democratic rule. I went with the International Development Committee and with a cross-party visit organised by the then Speaker of the House of Commons, John Bercow, who has been a long-standing campaigner for democracy and the end of human rights abuses in Myanmar. Subsequent visits were with the Westminster Foundation for Democracy to mentor parliamentary committees, and to look at development programmes. I met Aung San Suu Kyi—more than once—as well as Shwe Mann and other leading political figures.
Myanmar is complicated, and the building of democratic values has proved bumpy. Around half the population are ethnic Burmese living mostly in the centre of the country, surrounded by provinces populated by a number of ethnic minorities. This has led to a state of almost permanent conflict and civil war, which the armed forces use as justification for their intervention and control, but in return armed ethnic groups have ramped up the conflict.
The determination of young people and ousted politicians to secure their future after the current coup could see the country slide into an even more volatile and violent civil war. The peace process has made little progress and, while political reform along federal lines has been talked about, it has never been actioned.
Daw Suu carries her father’s name but, although adored by most of the Burmese, she is not an accomplished politician. She shares the prejudice that most ethnic Burmese have against Muslims, and she has been reluctant to stand up for one Burmese citizenship for all. I witnessed members of her party joining in criticisms of Rohingya Muslims in Rakhine province and refusing to recognise them other than as Bengalis. I welcome the recent calls for the Rohingya to be asked to join in the resistance, but nevertheless the divisions are deep and bitter.
It was suggested that Aung San Suu Kyi was reluctant to press forward with reform out of fear of the military’s reaction. Some of her own MPs said she was distant and did not engage with them. Some may have had personal ambitions but most—certainly the ones I met—simply felt that the leadership needed to be broader than just “the lady”. Now the generals have reacted anyway, looking negatively to their poor showing at the recent elections and the NDF’s increased support, claiming, with no credibility, fraud.
It is not clear where this will end up. There were many people I had the privilege of meeting who were working to build a fairer and more inclusive society across Myanmar. Many were experienced people excluded from their professions, and many spent years in exile before returning. Throughout the period of military rule the UK remained engaged with the country, providing basic healthcare and education, of which the Tatmadaw rules deprive their own people. I hope, given the cuts to the aid budget, that we will not abandon the poor people of Myanmar, who will be hit by sanctions.
It is known that the military controls, and milks for its own benefit, most of the country’s economy. So how, if at all, can it be persuaded that it is in its long-term interests to turn away from its brutal, ruthless dictatorship? How can we ensure that the top brass suffer enough to think again? How can we protect the poor and vulnerable? Is it not correct, as the noble and learned Lord, Lord Garnier, suggested, that we have to name, shame and pursue people who are identified as the perpetrators of these appalling atrocities and abuses?
How can we engage Myanmar’s neighbours to show support for the people rather than giving comfort to the leaders and helping circumvent the impact of sanctions? Instability in Myanmar has seen refugees stream into Bangladesh, Thailand and Indonesia, adding to pressures there. Is there common cause to bring Myanmar back from the brink?
It was thought that the military allowed civilian rule because it was weakened by the impact of Cyclone Nargis in 2008 and believed that its own power and wealth would benefit from opening up the economy to tourism and investment. It never let go, of course, but what now makes it think that choking the country down is its better option?
These sanctions are welcome, appropriate and targeted but they will not be enough without sustained international action. There will be a long period of hurt, hardship and unrest—and much under-the-counter dealing will be needed—before Burma and its people can be brought back from this appalling, anarchic, brutal chaos, which sanctions may be aimed at stopping but by themselves cannot achieve. I welcome what the Government are doing but I agree with the noble and learned Lord, Lord Garnier, that much more needs to be done and by many more countries.
My Lords, it is vital that we get the sanctions’ legal framework right so that as a country we can act with speed against those who seek to repress the population of Myanmar and who break international law. As the noble and learned Lord, Lord Garnier, said, it is important that we act in concert with our allies; for sanctions to be effective, they must be internationally backed.
Recent events in Myanmar have been absolutely appalling and devastating, with more than 800 deaths of protestors and other crimes against humanity that were highlighted by the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay, and the noble Lord, Lord Bruce. Aung San Suu Kyi’s failure to stand up for the Rohingya people in the face of the military has been deeply troubling, but the fact remains that her party secured a landslide victory in the November election and the army’s claims of voter fraud are utterly spurious. The military coup is a flagrant breach of the constitution of Myanmar, and the barbaric killing of protestors is a scar on the conscience of the world.
I welcome the fact that the Government are seeking to make the scope of sanctions less restrictive than under the previous legislation. However, the sanctioning of Myanmar officials and military-owned companies has been too slow across the board. For example, the sanctioning of Myanma Economic Holdings Limited and Myanmar Economic Corporation did not come in until after the coup on 1 February, despite the appalling persecution of the Rohingya.
I draw attention to the leadership shown by Gambia in taking Myanmar to the International Court of Justice on allegations of genocide. The wider response from the international community, including, unfortunately, the United Kingdom Government, has been slow. The Minister in the other place, Nigel Adams, said that the Government
“have been clear about our support for the ICJ process.”
He also confirmed that the UK had
“provided funding to enable Rohingya citizens to attend the hearings in December 2019.”
and that the Government were
“monitoring developments closely, and will consider the legal arguments to establish whether a UK intervention would add value.”—[Official Report, Commons, Committee on the Myanmar (Sanctions) Regulations 2021, 27/5/21; cols. 7-8.]
What other practical support are we giving Gambia in support of the case? Precisely what are the disadvantages of the UK joining the case now? Are we not sending the wrong message by delay? The military has been emboldened by the tacit support that it has received from China; the Chinese Government simply noted the 1 February coup without condemning it, while the main state news agency described the coup as merely a “cabinet reshuffle”.
In considering further sanctions, will the Minister’s department work with NGOs, such as Burma Campaign UK and Justice for Myanmar, on getting the designations right? Clear moves to sanction military companies will be much more effective than simply sanctioning individuals in government. The Government should also use their international influence to seek to extend the arms embargo—and I welcome what the Minister said. Despite Russia and China, we must still seek to build the broadest possible international coalition.
Although I note that under the Vienna convention, the appointment by foreign states of an interim chargé d’affaires does not require UK approval, I am pleased that the Minister commended the Myanmar ambassador, Kyaw Zwar Minn, for his bravery on standing up for democracy and welcomed the strong condemnation of the bullying behaviour of the junta towards him. It is important that he is not only offered but given significant support, and I hope that the Minister will be able to confirm that this afternoon.
As the noble Baroness, Lady D’Souza, said, when the moment is right the UK should publicly declare that it is time to refer Burmese officials to the ICC via the United Nations and call on other countries to follow suit. Just because Russia and China can block the referral in the UN Security Council does not mean that the United Kingdom should be prevented from doing what is right.
Nigel Adams also said that the UK works closely with our international partners on Myanmar and we are in regular contact with ASEAN partners. He welcomed the five points that came out following their recent leaders’ meeting. Can the Minister give us further details of co-operation and action in the region?
Finally, it would be remiss of me not to mention the shocking cuts to aid supporting the Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh. The £27.6 million announced amounts to a 42% cut in aid to the refugees compared with what the Government contributed in October 2020. The coup makes it impossible for the Rohingya to return. The fact that the Government are cutting aid at this moment is an absolute disgrace.
My Lords, I thank all noble Lords for their very insightful contributions and their support for the Government’s approach to an increasingly challenging situation. We heard from my noble and learned friend Lord Garnier and the noble Lord, Lord Bruce, about the hopes and aspirations of the people of Myanmar. Those who visited there saw rays of hope following the election of the first civilian Government under the stewardship of Aung San Suu Kyi. Indeed, in my previous capacity as Aviation Minister I remember being one of the first Ministers to go there after the election had taken place. The real challenge I determined was the lack of ability to govern. Basic training was required on government functions such as education, Treasury, and so on and so forth. Nevertheless, we have recently seen a decline in the political space and, ultimately, the coup. I listened very carefully to the suggestions, as well as the support, that various noble Lords made on how we can further strengthen our position in this respect.
As I set out in my opening speech, the regulations give us real power to impose sanctions with real impact on individuals and entities, complementing our diplomatic and humanitarian responses to the coup. They ensure that we target not only members of the Myanmar security forces but civilian members of the junta and the economic interests that fund their activities without adversely affecting humanitarian operations. They also allow us to demonstrate that the UK will not stand by in the face of the junta’s unacceptable behaviour, recognising, as the noble Baroness, Lady D’Souza, reminded us, our important responsibility to protect something that is propagated by the UN. We are ready and willing to act as a force for good in the world and will stand by those who believe in democracy.
The noble Lord, Lord Collins, mentioned the ICJ case. The Government’s position, as given by my honourable friend in the other place, has not changed, but I will share a bit more detail on the ICJ referral, which I have looked at very closely. There are specific processes in the ICJ referral that the Gambia has made, including the response required from Myanmar, as I have mentioned before in your Lordships’ House. We will monitor the responses and the legal arguments once they are made available to establish where the UK’s intervention can add maximum impact and value, but I hear what noble Lords have said. I reassure them that we continue to support the action being taken at the ICJ.
The noble Lord, Lord Collins, asked specifically about the ICC. This is something that we have often tested through channels. To go back in recent history, from 2017 to where we are today, we have seen movement at the UN Security Council under our penholder capacity, particularly on the issue of the Rohingya, whereas previously a public statement of any kind on Myanmar, but specifically on the plight of the Rohingya community, was subsequently blocked. I heard what the noble Lord said and we will of course continue to work very closely with international partners—we are great supporters of the ICC—to see how best we can act and hold those perpetrators responsible.
The noble Lord, Lord Collins, also rightly raised various issues about working with civil society. As I said in my opening remarks, we believe that is an important contribution. He specifically mentioned NGOs such as Burma Campaign UK and Justice for Myanmar, so we can get the designations right, as he rightly said. I assure the noble Lord that our officials are engaging directly with such civil society stakeholders, including Burma Campaign UK and Justice for Myanmar, which provide valuable insight on the ground into how we can take forward a number of these regulations.
The noble Baroness, Lady D’Souza, and the noble Lord, Lord Bruce, highlighted once again the importance of carefully ensuring the targeted effect of our sanctions to minimise any unintended impact. I alluded to this in my opening remarks but I reassure the noble Baroness and the noble Lord that the licensing purpose within the context of these regulations ensures that humanitarian activity, primarily in Myanmar, is not hindered by sanctions and that the poorest and most vulnerable in Myanmar are not unintentionally affected.
The noble Baroness, Lady D’Souza, again asked about various levels of tests of controlled items of military goods et cetera. The broad use of items such as supplies is agreed through a range of regimes and is regularly reviewed. I assure the noble Baroness that we keep a very firm watch on the issue and the tests that apply to controlled items.
The noble Baroness, Lady Goudie, asked specifically about transparency, as did my noble and learned friend Lord Garnier. I will just give some context to that. Following the coup, the United Kingdom laid new Myanmar sanction regulations to adapt to the changing context and to provide us with the greater powers that I highlighted earlier to target those involved in undermining democracy and repressing the civilian population. The new designation criteria provide expansive powers to target individuals and entities who have been involved in or supported activities, including the commission of serious human rights violations.
My noble and learned friend Lord Garnier asked specifically about frozen assets and the disclosure of information. I have a few specifics on that. The disclosure of information on frozen assets is limited to certain bodies such as financial institutions to disclose information directly to Governments and for compliance purposes. I hear what my noble and learned friend says and, as he will be aware, our obligations under SAMLA require us to provide details of those who have been sanctioned and the steps that we have taken in this respect.
Since the coup, under the Burma sanctions regime we have now remade Myanmar sanctions applying to nine individuals, including the commander-in-chief, who is also sanctioned under the global human rights sanctions regime—it is a double sanction. As the noble Lord, Lord Collins, mentioned, under the global human rights sanctions regime two further entities have now also been sanctioned: Myanmar Economic Holdings Ltd and the Myanmar Economic Corporation. I mentioned the Myanmar Gems Enterprise in my opening remarks.
The noble Lord, Lord Collins, asked about the delay that may have occurred in our applying those sanctions to institutions. I assure him that they were taken once we had established the legal basis of any subsequent challenge that might take place. As he again acknowledged, he knows I strongly favour co-ordinated action with other key partners to make sure that the sanctions are most effective, as do my colleagues in the FCDO.
A number of noble Lords raised the international arms embargo and the influence that the UK can bring. The UK is a long-standing supporter of a UN embargo on Myanmar. We are clear that countries should not sell arms to the Myanmar military. In this respect, the UK played a key role in securing and strengthening an EU embargo on Myanmar following the 2017 Rohingya crisis. Since we have left the EU and it is after the end of the transition period, we have transferred this into UK law. I assure noble Lords that that UK will continue to explore all avenues to resolve this crisis and I assure the noble Baroness, Lady D’Souza, that we are keeping this very much as a live issue on the UN Security Council’s agenda. It was the UK’s efforts that led to the council releasing a strong statement expressing specific concern at the coup.
The noble Lord, Lord Collins, my noble and learned friend Lord Garnier and the noble Baroness, Lady D’Souza, raised the importance of co-ordination with international partners. We have worked hard to co-ordinate our designations with partners, including, as I am sure noble Lords will acknowledge, two joint announcements with Canada and two with the US.
The noble Baroness, Lady Goudie, asked about the effectiveness of US sanctions in constraining military actions, travel and business interests. It is our view that co-ordinated international sanctions on the military and their business interests have raised the cost of their actions and limited their ability to conduct business with the UK and the US. Sanctions have also ensured that prospective companies looking to invest in Myanmar avoid investments that benefit the junta directly and Myanmar security forces more broadly.
Obviously we will continue to work with international partners. The noble Baronesses, Lady D’Souza and Lady Finlay, gave us very detailed insights into the situation on the ground. I noted very carefully the concerns of the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay, about the reports that are increasingly coming out of Myanmar about issues of organ harvesting and torture. I am sure that I speak for all noble Lords when I say we strongly condemn the widespread use of torture by Myanmar security forces, including the horrific reports that we are getting of sexual violence. In my capacity as the PM’s special representative on PSVI, that is an area that I am looking at very carefully. I assure the noble Baroness and indeed all noble Lords that we will continue to call for those responsible for violations and abuses of international human rights law to be held accountable. That is illustrated in the language of the G7 communique of 5 May.
We are working very closely with ASEAN partners on the five-point consensus that has been agreed with ASEAN. We hope to secure strategic dialogue status with ASEAN later this year, which will allow us to further strengthen our support. I assure noble Lords in my capacity as Minister for South Asia that we work very closely with key partners, particularly on ensuring support for Bangladesh in that respect.
I thank all noble Lords for their contributions to today’s valuable debate. I value our debates, specifically on sanctions, as well as the ability to share thoughts, insights and future thinking with noble Lords outside the Chamber and the formalities of our proceedings. I will continue to engage with noble Lords, who bring great insight and expertise to the discussions that we have.
The situation on the ground, as has been described by all noble Lords who have participated in this debate, once again illustrates the vulnerability of democracies around the world, best illustrated by the fact that today, as the noble Baroness, Lady D’Souza reminded us, is another day of a notable trial in Myanmar of Aung San Suu Kyi. She brought great hope but unfortunately her own lack of recognition of the situation, particularly that of the Rohingya, was testament to the strength of the military and the coercion that it continues to exert on all democratic institutions, individuals and organisations within Myanmar. That said, we will work with international partners to strengthen the cause and we hope, through sanctions and indeed other support that we can give, to restore democracy to Myanmar. With that, and once again thanking noble Lords, I beg to move.
Committee adjourned at 6.53 pm.