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18 Mar 2021

British Chamber of Commerce Myanmar

British Chamber of Commerce Myanmar's response

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18 March 2021

  • We have been horrified and extremely saddened by the events that started to unfold from the 1st February 2021 and continue to date, that have led to disruptions, protests, riots and more recently this weekend, the destruction of property and factories and numerous unnecessary injuries and deaths. Our members and our team have been badly affected by the actions undertaken on the 1st February 2021.
  • The British Chamber, established in July 2014 always ensures that we are engaging and have engaged with the right people throughout our entire operational history. The Chamber was established in the transition phase from military rule.
  • We have detailed processes that cover everything from the
    • events we organise, covering venues and products.
    • the participants, who they are?
    • the trade services that we offer.
    • vetting the applicants for membership, their company, background, and readily available online corporate history.
  • The British Chamber works closely with Department for International Trade, through the British Embassy.
    • On the 1st February we immediately ceased all promotional activity and postponed or cancelled events.
    • We have been further advised by Her Majesty’s Government (HMG) to suspend trade promotion until such time that the British Government formulates conclusions from its trade policy review.
    • We are fully supportive to HMG and its policies towards targeted sanctions.
  • We have fully supported the efforts of the Myanmar Centre for Responsible Business
    • Ensuring that our members are fully aware of the opportunity to support and endorse the message.
    • The Director for MCRB, Ms. Vicky Bowman is an active member of the Chamber.
  • We have also provided our objection to the draft Cyber Law.

In Answer to your questions:

1.How long has your organisation been operating or investing in Myanmar?

We have been operational since July 2014. We do not invest in Myanmar; we are a NFP Myanmar registered business association.

2.What policies and procedures do you have to ensure that your members’ operations will not directly cause or contribute to human rights abuses as the situation in Myanmar unfolds (this includes potential violence and harassment to your workers and the communities where your investments are situated)?

Please see item 4 regarding human rights.

3.Please feel free to provide us with a word or pdf file, or a link to these policies and procedures. In recognition of the highly evolving nature of the situation, please make sure that the documents that you will be sharing with us contains the date it was issued.

This document is an internal guiding document only, it is constantly being reviewed in line with the current situation.

4.Are there immediate steps that your organisation has taken or is prepared to take to ensure that your members continue to respect human rights?

  • Social media and messaging feeds
  • Regular media
  • General market intelligence
  • We would know, mostly from the above points if there had been any human rights issues. Experience would likely guide us with online media what is real what is not reliable and the next steps to take, that would include:
    • Raise the matter with the Board of Directors.
    • After agreement we would contact the company to discuss, offer advice or support to correct.
    • Make it clear that such practices are not welcome and expect corrective actions.
    • Follow up.

If you have any advice that can further strengthen our procedure we would be pleased to hear more.

5.What other commitments to all stakeholders can you publicly share as regards the following: respect for the rule of law and democracy, freedom of association and collective bargaining, freedoms of expression and peaceful assembly (including your members’ policy on workers who join protests), wages, job security, anti-discrimination, non-retaliation, and others?

  • Most of our members are not, for example, big manufacturers, perhaps apart from say brewers.
  • We do not, for example, have garment manufacturing members.
  • There are big employers such as life insurance companies, who are international and follow the requirements of their mother company.
  • For wages, job security, anti-discrimination & non retaliation Myanmar is in a very fluid situation, certainly we are monitoring the situation with member companies wherever we can.

We of course welcome the opportunity to seek your guidance on improvements. At the appropriate moment and agreement of the Board of Directors to offer our platform to you to present guidelines on linking human rights and business together. We would welcome a direct point of contact to further discuss.