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28th May 2022

Court revokes EU sanctions on son of Burmese tycoon

The EU travel and financial ban against the son of a prominent Burmese businessman with close ties to the military junta should be lifted, according to a ruling by the EU's top court on Tuesday (13 March).

The European Court of Justice (ECJ) said there is insufficient evidence to link Pye Phyo Tay Za to the erosion of human rights and democracy in the country.

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  • The European Court of Justice ruled in favour of lifting restrictions against the son of a Burmese tycoon (Photo: Xianzi Tan)

Tay Za brought his case to the Luxembourg-based court in 2008. But it ruled against him in 2011, saying family members of individuals with close ties to the regime, by extension, would also benefit from the economic policies of the ruling government.

Tay Za appealed and was able to convince judges he does not have any links to his father's business or business practices by the regime.

The Luxembourg-based court has since decided that "restrictive measures imposed on a third country must be directed only - in so far as natural persons are concerned - against the leaders of that country and the persons associated with them."

The EU imposed targeted sanctions against the junta in 1996 and anyone presumed to have close links. The sanctions are intended to encourage transition towards democratic rule and help end the scourge of its pariah government against activists and human rights defenders.

Tay Za's father has major stakes in a wide area of economic sectors in Burma, including logging, tourism, hotels, transport and construction. His father also runs a domestic airline and has close ties to some of the country's top generals.

The court's decision means sanctions cannot be applied to someone only because they are related to an individual who is associated with leaders of the country.

The ruling could have wider implications on other pending cases and on the debate between those who oppose sanctions and those who support it.

Last year, a similar ruling lifted sanctions against the second wife of the former president of the Cote D'Ivoire, Laurent Gbagbo. In that case, the court could not find sufficient evidence linking her to "the obstruction of peace and reconciliation process in Cote d'Ivoire."

Separately, the EU has been steadily relaxing restrictions against Burma in response to what it views as a concerted effort by its leaders to enact reform.

The junta is allowing opposing political parties to participate in the upcoming 1 April elections.

"We have seen historic changes in Burma/Myanmar and we strongly encourage the authorities to continue this process," said EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton in February.

She intends to visit the country in April.

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