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Article

‘Silence not an option’: ANZ refuses to sign letter condemning Myanmar violence

5 April 2021

ANZ Bank has declined to sign a letter condemning the violence in Myanmar, despite calls from local and international activist organisations for global companies to publicly align themselves with pro-democracy protesters.

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ASX-listed Woodside announced last month plans to reduce its presence in the country amid increasing concerns over the state-sanctioned violence. “Until we see the outlook for Myanmar and its political stability has improved, Woodside will keep all business decisions under review.”

However, despite having operations in Myanmar since 2013, ANZ has not signed the letter, saying that the safety of its staff was its number one priority and it was “concerned” by the escalating violence.

ANZ said its business is focused on supporting key multinational clients with local payments and other banking needs, adding the bank did not provide services to entities subject to sanctions or provide funding for their projects. A spokesman for the bank said it “conducts regular reviews” of its international network, but did not specify if its Myanmar business was under consideration.

ANZ’s institutional bank boss Mark Whelan told the Australian Financial Review’s banking summit last week that the bank employed around 20 local staff and would continue facilitating payrolls for multinationals to ensure Myanmar citizens receive wages.

“We’re watching it closely, we’ll determine what the best course of action is once we see how things develop.”

ANZ has operations in over 30 countries around the world and Mr Whelan said monitoring civil unrest was a part of doing business.

“You have to operate to the rule of law obviously in each of those countries. As things shift, geopolitically-wise, we monitor that and we determine what our next course of action is with regards,” he said. “But our two priorities are – are our staff safe? And can we continue to service our customer base appropriately?”

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