The United States on Wednesday imposed fresh Myanmar-related sanctions, targeting two state-owned enterprises in the latest in a series of punitive actions following the country's military coup as Washington said it would take further action.
The US Treasury Department in a statement said it blacklisted Myanma Timber Enterprise (MTE) and Myanmar Pearl Enterprise, adding that the pearl and timber industries are economic resources for the Myanmar military.
The Southeast Asian country has been in crisis since the February coup when the military seized power from Aung San Suu Kyi's elected government, with almost daily protests and a crackdown by the junta in which hundreds of people have been killed.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Washington would continue to target funding channels to the junta.
"We will continue to support the people of Burma in their efforts to reject this coup, and we call on the military regime to cease violence, release all those unjustly detained, and restore Burma's path to democracy," Blinken said in a separate statement.
The Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP), an activist group, says 738 people have been killed by Myanmar's security forces since the coup and 3,300 people are in detention. Another 20 people have been sentenced to death and are in hiding.
Wednesday's action freezes any US assets of the businesses and generally bars Americans from dealing with the companies that the Treasury said are responsible for timber and pearl exports from Myanmar.
The Environmental Investigation Agency, an international nonprofit that documents timber industry abuses in Myanmar and elsewhere, said this month that the military junta now profits from the export of teak through MTE.
That teak is sometimes exported to the United States and Europe and used for luxury furniture and for the decks of high-end yachts, the group says.
"Sanctions placed on MTE in Myanmar is a significant blow to the military regime, which directly profits from the country's valuable and diminishing forests," said Faith Doherty, the group's forests campaign leader. She added that the move would also undermine corrupt officials.
Doherty said the sanctions mean no timber or timber products from Myanmar can be exported to the United States, and called on the US Justice Department to "be vigilant in its monitoring of Myanmar timber into its markets."