The military regime has seized control of the bank accounts of billionaire George Soros’ Open Society Foundation (OSF) in Myanmar and announced that it will take legal action against the foundation, which is accused of violating restrictions on the activities of such organizations.
On Monday, military-controlled MRTV announced that the military had issued arrest warrants for 11 staff members of OSF Myanmar, including its head and deputy head, on suspicion of giving financial support to the civil disobedience movement against the military junta.
The regime also claimed that the world’s largest private funder for justice, democratic governance and human rights had failed to obtain approval from the Central Bank of Myanmar (CBM)’s Foreign Exchange Management Department for a deposit of US$5 million (7.04 billion kyats) with the Small and Medium Enterprise Development Bank (SMED) in Myanmar in 2018.
The foundation is also accused of illegally withdrawing $1.4 million from its account at SMED a week after the military takeover in Myanmar, as the civil disobedience movement was gaining momentum among civil servants across the country.
The military junta also took control of assets totaling $3.81 million and 375 million kyats in OSF bank accounts at four private banks—Kanbawza Bank (KBZ), Ayeyarwady Bank (AYA), SMED and Co-operative Bank (CB), according to MRTV.
The military said it had begun taking control of all illegal flows of money to OSF Myanmar, saying the foundation had breached the law that lays downs the rules and regulations for organizations in the country.
It said it would take legal action against SMED for allowing OSF to deposit $5 million and withdraw $1.4 million without obtaining approval from the CBM.
On March 12, the CBM notified all international non-governmental organizations (INGOs) and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) that they would be required to report all financial transactions involving international organizations or individuals from abroad, with relevant bank account information, since April 1, 2016. The order indicates that the military regime intends to investigate the financial transactions of organizations since the National League for Democracy (NLD) took office in early 2016.
The regime said the opening of the OSF Myanmar office came about after George Soros met ousted Myanmar State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi four times between 2014 and 2017. It said OSF deputy chair Alexander Soros met Daw Aung San Suu Kyi six times from 2017 to 2020.
Military-aligned groups including the Union Solidarity and Development Party have accused Soros of manipulating Myanmar’s politics by supporting civil society organizations in the country. In 2017, lawmaker U Soe Thane, who served as President’s Office minister under U Thein Sein’s administration, objected to a ministerial appointment by the NLD government on grounds that the appointed minister had failed to disclose his previous work for the George Soros Foundation. He said that making the official a national security adviser could hurt Myanmar’s relations with China.
OSF has been supporting Myanmar’s democratic transition and promoting human rights, including those of marginalized groups, since 1994. The foundation said it had awarded more than 100 grants each year, mostly to grassroots civil society organizations including exile, ethnic media and educational organizations.
Following the coup, the military regime launched an investigation into the finances of the Daw Khin Kyi Foundation, a charity founded by Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. The move is believed to be a pretext to file more charges against the country’s de facto leader.