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US Imposes Sanctions on Burmese Companies, Military Staff Officer

FILE - Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence of the U.S. Treasury Department David Cohen, July 17, 2012.
FILE - Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence of the U.S. Treasury Department David Cohen, July 17, 2012.
The United States has imposed sanctions on a military officer and three companies in Burma, also known as Myanmar, on accusations of involvement in banned arms dealings with North Korea.

The Treasury Department announced the sanctions against Asia Metal Co. Ltd., Soe Min Htike Co. Ltd., and Excellence Mineral Manufacturing. Also named is Lt. Colonel Kyaw Nyunt Oo, a military staff officer.

Asia Metal denies wrongdoing. Its general manager, Htein Lin, told VOA's Burmese service Wednesday that his company only worked on construction projects for the Burmese military and was not involved in any arms deals.

"As a private construction company, we are just doing our job. They asked us to build a particular building and we did that. We have no idea what it was for. We are not aware of any connection with North Korea and we do not have anything to do with North Korea," he said.

He added that his company is open to participating in any inquiry.

The Treasury Department said Tuesday that as of December of last year, the company "constructed buildings and supplied construction materials on a [Burmese Directorate of Defense Industries] factory compound where approximately 30 North Koreans were still working."

VOA has not been able to reach the other two Burmese companies or Lt. Colonel Kyaw Nyunt Oo for comment.

The U.S. and the United Nations have banned arms deals with North Korea.

The sanctions prohibit any U.S. company or individual from doing business with them and could mean a freezing of any assets they hold that are subject to U.S. jurisdiction.

In announcing the sanctions, Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence David Cohen was quoted as saying, "We will continue to target this activity in Burma, and the region, as we work with our international partners to shut down North Korea's dangerous and destabilizing weapons proliferation."

Aung Lin Htut, a former deputy chief of mission at the Burmese embassy in Washington who sought asylum in the U.S., says he is sure one of the companies on the list is guilty.

"I know Soe Min Htike Co. Ltd. This company is a broker between North Korea and military," he said. "They brought the weapons from North Korea as broker. They were big name when I was in Burma . But I don't know about Asia Metal Company."

It is the second time this year that the U.S. has announced such sanctions. In July, it placed sanctions on Lt. General Thein Htay, the chief of the DDI.

This report was produced in collaboration with the VOA Burmese service
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