Myanmar: Military regime seizes bank accounts of George Soros’s OSF, issues arrest warrant against staff members

Myanmar Army chief Sr Gen Min Aung Hlaing, image via Firstpost

According to reports from Myanmar, the Myanmar military regime has seized the bank accounts of George Soros’s Open Society Foundation (OSF) in the country. The military regime in Myanmar accuses OSF Myanmar of violating multiple financial restrictions on the activities of organizations like OSF.

The Military regime on Monday announced the arrest warrants for 11 staff members of OSF Myanmar through Myanmar Radio and Television (MRTV). These arrest warrants include the top management of the foundation, with reports revealing the Finance Manager of OSF Myanmar already in detention and going through interrogation since at least Friday.

The Myanmar military junta accuses OSF Myanmar of multiple financial improprieties. The most prominent accusation is a failure to obtain approval from the Central Bank of Myanmar (CBM)’s Foreign Exchange Management Department for depositing US$5 million (7.04 billion kyats) with the Small and Medium Enterprise Development Bank (SMED) in Myanmar in 2018. OSF Myanmar is also accused of illegally withdrawing $1.4 million from its account at SMED a week after the military junta takeover in Myanmar at the beginning of February. The Military has also seized OSF banks accounts in the private banks of Myanmar, collectively amounting to the tune of $3.81 million.

OSF is accused of providing financial support to civil disobedience movements against the military rule.

Military regime accuses Aung San Suu Kyi of meeting George Soros

On March 12th, the Central Bank of Myanmar notified all international and domestic NGOs that all financial transactions since April 1st 2016 involving international organizations or individuals from abroad are to be reported to the CBM. This is seen as a move to investigate the finances of organizations like the OSF since the civilian government of the National League for Democracy (NLD), the political party of Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, rose to power in early 2016. The Military junta also accuses Aung San Suu Kyi of meeting with George Soros four times between 2014 to 2017 and OSF deputy chair Alexander Soros six times from 2017 to 2020 in her capacity as State Counsellor of Myanmar (equivalent to Prime Minister).

The Union Solidarity and Development Party, a Myanmar political party known for its close ties with the military, have accused the Open Society Foundations of attempting to manipulate Myanmar’s politics through its activities in the country. In 2017, a Myanmar lawmaker objected to a ministerial appointment by the NLD government, citing the appointee’s failure to disclose his previous work for George Soros.

OSF responds, calls for the immediate release of staffers

The Open Society Foundations responded to the Myanmar military junta on Tuesday, calling for the immediate release of the OSF staff member currently detained by the junta. “The Open Society Foundations are deeply concerned about reports that an OSM (Open Society Myanmar) staff member has been detained in Myanmar. We call for her immediate release. We are alarmed by reports that authorities are seeking to interrogate other staff members,” Open Society Foundations said in an emailed statement to Reuters.

The OSF has also rubbished the Military junta’s allegations of financial impropriety on the part of OSF Myanmar. “Claims of financial misconduct, including that OSM acted illegally by withdrawing their own funds in local currency from the SMID bank, are false. Claims that OSM used these funds for illegal purposes are false. These funds were used for purposes fully within the objectives of OSM.” the Open Society Foundations told Reuters.

The Myanmar Army is in control of Myanmar after staging a coup in the early morning hours of 1st February 2021. According to reports, the Myanmar military’s intervention came after weeks of continued friction between the country’s military, which ruled the country for over five decades, and the civilian government over allegations of irregularities in the 2020 Myanmar General Elections.

OpIndia Staff: Staff reporter at OpIndia