Australia slaps sanctions on Myanmar military ruler and Iranian military officials

Myanmar Commander-in-Chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing has repeated his promise to hold elections, but not given a date. TATMADAW/AP

Australia has imposed sanctions on Iranian security officials and has also targeted Myanmar’s military ruler on the second anniversary of the military coup.

The Australian government revealed a range of new sanctions late on Tuesday, including Iranian figures linked to the suppression of protests and the export of drones for Russian use in the war against Ukraine.

Australian travel bans and asset freezes will apply to 16 people and one entity linked to “serious abuses of human rights in Iran”, including the commander-in-chief of the army, Sayyed Abdolrahim Mousavi, and senior figures in the Basij Resistance Force.

The Iranian sanctions were the third round of measures applied under Australia’s new Magnitsky-style sanctions laws, which passed the parliament in late 2021.

The move pre-empts the scheduled release on Wednesday of a parliamentary inquiry report about human rights in Iran, which was likely to increase pressure on the Australian government to take a tougher stand.

“The [Iran] listings cover serious violations or serious abuses of the right to life and the right not to be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment,” the government said in an explanatory note published on Tuesday.

“These relate to the oppression of women in enforcing the Islamic dress code and violent suppression of peaceful protests in Iran.”

In a separate sanctions instrument, Australia also listed four persons and four entities for targeted financial sanctions and travel bans under the Ukraine war criteria.

These persons and entities “have been involved in the supply of Iranian Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (‘UAVs’) to Russia for use in its war against Ukraine”, the government’s sanctions notice said.

The Australian government also revealed late on Tuesday that it was finally imposing sanctions on Myanmar military figures. The 16 people targeted include the commander in chief, Min Aung Hlaing, and his deputy, Soe Win.

Human rights groups have long expressed frustration at the Australian government’s reluctance to expand sanctions since the military seized power in Myanmar on 1 February 2021.

The government’s sanctions instrument – signed by the the foreign affairs minister, Penny Wong – says the new measures signal Australia’s “ongoing concerns about the situation in Myanmar”.

“These [Myanmar] sanctions allow a targeted response to Australia’s concerns about serious violations of human rights committed by the military regime and ongoing efforts to suppress the rights of the civilian population through violence and coercion,” the government’s explanatory note said.

The Myanmar sanctions also target two entities – the Myanmar Economic Corporation and Myanmar Economic Holdings Public Company Ltd.

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