Commentary: Role of public activism against military-affiliated businesses in Myanmar
"Saying “No” to Businesses Financing the Junta: Strategic Public Activism in Myanmar", 15 June 2023
By 2022, almost two dozen foreign companies and investors had left the Myanmar market or suspended their operations. While such decisions were made partly due to low profits, it may be worth considering the role of public activism against military-affiliated businesses in Myanmar. [...]
Blood Money, which aims to stop the military’s foreign income and international businesses seeking to work with the military, has called on international oil and gas enterprises to stop paying taxes to the junta. The most recent campaign targeted PTT, a Thai conglomerate that has reportedly paid nearly US$500 million in taxes to the military junta. A January 2023 campaign called on drivers not to use PTT engine oil.
While no data has yet been published on the financial impact of the public boycott against military-affiliated businesses, news reports indicate that some military businesses have suffered declines in sales. Myanmar Beer, a joint venture of the military’s business arm and Japan’s Kirin Holdings, saw sales plummeting a few months after the coup. MyTel, a telecommunications provider owned by the Myanmar military, lost US$24.9 million and 2 million subscribers from February to April 2021.
While public activism is becoming more strategic and targeted, there is still room for improvement. Some public campaigns can misinform the public to punish people who have no other choice but to use military-affiliated products. MyTel, for example, is the only telco in some parts of Myanmar. Other demands like asking companies to halt tax payments to the junta, can result in companies exiting the Myanmar market. This could ironically lead to military-affiliated entities stepping into the void.