A new Amnesty International report showed on Wednesday the increasing limits of Western sanctions as Myanmar finds alternative to sanctioned American and European jet fuel.
In spring of 2023, the US, UK, Canada, and the EU imposed sanctions on the importation of jet fuel by the central government in Naypyidaw. This was allegedly to prevent Myanmar’s air force from conducting aerial attacks against the rebel groups it has been fighting for the past two years. There are no bilateral or UN sanctions on jet fuel exports to Myanmar.
The new report alleged that intermediaries appear to be aiding Myanmar in the purchase of fuel. Amnesty International reported that in 2023, at least 67 kilotonnes of aviation fuel reached Myanmar through seven shipments, marking an increase from 2022. It further alleges that the seven shipments all loaded from a small storage terminal called Cai Mep Petroleum near Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.
Amnesty International tracked deliveries of jet fuel into Vietnam in the same time frame and pointed to deliveries from the China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC) terminal in Huizhou and two from the Pengerang Independent Terminals, a storage terminal in Malaysia partly owned by Vopak. Vietnamese customs data made it possible to identify some of the fuel traders that made the second-to-last purchase of jet fuel that transited through Vietnam. These include the Singapore-based BB Energy Asia, a branch of BB Energy. The report also found that six of the seven shipments were made by the Chinese-flagged oil tanker HUITONG 78. The remaining shipment was carried out by the Liberian-flagged oil tanker YIDA 8.
It is uncertain if these shipments were made legally or illegally under international and national laws. China, Vietnam, Singapore and the United Arab Emirates do not ban jet fuel exports to Myanmar, and their traders are not subject to the laws of the sanctioning states. Vopak may have breached EU sanctions, but it is unclear if it will be held liable as its Pengerang terminal was not the final port of loading. This comes as the efficacy of Western sanctions has received repeated blows as countries develop better techniques to ameliorate or circumvent them, with Russia’s shadow fleet becoming a major player in crude and crude product shipping.
Two of the countries of origin for the Western sanctions against Myanmar, the US and UK, announced new sanctions against Myanmar on Thursday.