Japan firm got U.S. sanctions exemption to pay Myanmar military company – Japanese official

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The payments relate to work on a Japanese government-funded bridge in Myanmar’s commercial center of Yangon that was approved before the February 1, 2021 coup that plunged the country into -Southeast Asia in deadly chaos.

The US Treasury Department said it could not confirm whether it had licensed the Japanese company Yokogawa Bridge Corporation to pay the Myanmar Economic Corporation (MEC), in what would be the first publicized sanctions relief issued against businesses linked to the junta since the putsch.

A Japanese foreign ministry official, who requested anonymity to speak about discussions with a private company, said construction firm Yokogawa Bridge Corporation has discussed the project with US authorities.

“They were able to continue the project because the American authorities agreed to make an exception to the sanction in this case,” the official told Reuters, while declining to comment on why the exception was granted.

Myanmar’s military, accused of widespread human rights abuses in its bloody crackdown on coup opponents, has been hit by new Western sanctions, including against the MEC, which d -The US Treasury Department nominated in March 2021.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) said it analyzed financial transactions that show Yokogawa Bridge Corporation paid MEC around $1.3 million from July to November 2022. The campaign group said the payments were transferred through Mizuho Bank Ltd of Japan, part of a major Japanese holding company with offices globally.

Parent company Yokogawa Bridge Holdings Corp declined to comment, saying the company does not comment on individual contracts. Mizuho Bank Ltd also declined to comment.

The payments “effectively helped finance the junta’s atrocities,” Teppei Kasai, Asia program officer at HRW, said in a report published on Monday, calling on the Japanese government to ensure it does not stop providing non-humanitarian development aid to the junta.

Since the coup, Tokyo has halted new aid to Myanmar and called on the military to end the violence but its response has been further constrained by tight sanctions imposed by the United States, the European Union and others. .

Former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced plans to provide a 31 billion yen ($239 million) development loan for the 3-kilometer (1.86-mile) bridge in 2016.

A US Treasury spokesman said they could not confirm or deny the existence of any license or sanctions application, which are granted on a case-by-case basis and determined by US foreign policy concerns. United States and national security.

“We are very concerned about the deterioration of human rights in Burma and are in close contact with Japan about the situation there,” the spokesman said.

(Reporting by Sakura Murakami in Tokyo and Simon Lewis in Washington; Editing by Daniel Wallis)

By Sakura Murakami and Simon Lewis

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