Myanmar: Business & investor responses to the Rohingya crisis

[Updated Dec 2017] Over half a million Rohingya refugees have fled Rakhine State in Myanmar since 25 August 2017 when a group that calls itself the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) claimed responsibility for coordinated attacks on police and army posts. This has led to intensified military-led security operations, including the burning down of Rohingya villages in “clearance operations”, as well immense humanitarian challenges both in Rakhine State and in Bangladesh, where those fleeing violence have sought refuge. Refugees continue to arrive in Bangladesh to date.

The response of the private sector is important not only due to the scale of the crisis, but also because Myanmar is in a critical stage in its economic development – having just transitioned to a nominally civilian government after over half a century of military rule. On this page, we compile the actions some companies have taken, as well as the proposals and demands for company action being advanced by civil society.

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11 December 2017

Myanmar: Cartier stops sourcing gemstones from country in response to campaign against "genocide gems"

Author: Philip Sherwell & Jon Ungoed-Thomas, The Times (UK)

"Taint of Burma's genocide gems", 10 Dec 2017

... Burmese gemstones used in high-end jewellery made by famous western brands are now at the centre of the international outcry over the persecution of Rohingya Muslims. Cartier... assured shoppers... that it would no longer buy gemstones from Burma after campaigners exposed the company... [The] company said it...stopped purchasing gemstones from the country last Friday....after a campaign to boycott “genocide gems” over the persecution of the Rohingya Muslims... Tiffany & Co has already said that its longstanding policy is not to buy gemstones from Burma. The controversy...comes as fashion experts have described a surge in demand for rubies... Activists from the International Campaign for the Rohingya (ICR) plan next to target Bulgari...  [Gems] are controversial for the role they play in the funding of Burma’s armed forces, which are driving Rohingya from their villages. Burma’s gem industry was previously the target of European Union and American sanctions, but these were lifted... after the generals released Aung San Suu Kyi... Cartier...said...that [they were] not prepared to discuss the policy... “Cartier’s decision to stop buying Burmese gems demonstrates how ordinary people can directly sanction Burma’s army,” said...ICR. “There’s no market for genocide gems.” Van Cleef & Arpels, Cartier and Bulgari did not... comment.

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19 December 2017

Leading brands and trade associations call on Myanmar to respect rights

Author: Tom Phillips, Ethical Trading Initiative (UK)

Leading garment brands and trade associations from Europe and the US have called on the Myanmar government to respect the rights of the ethnic minority population of Rakhine State or risk further eroding business and investor confidence. Sixteen organisations including the Ethical Trading Initiative, Fair Labor Association, American Apparel & Footwear Association, and the Foreign Trade Association, expressed their concerns in a joint written statement to the President of Myanmar and in meetings with government ministers. Since the escalation in violence earlier this year, more than 600,000 Rohingya refugees have fled across the border to Bangladesh. Families have been torn apart and individuals have lost their lives. The joint statement expresses commitment to the future of Myanmar and its successful development, but calls on the Government to take all necessary steps, with the support of international agencies, to bring the crisis to an end and ensure refugees can safely and voluntarily return to their homes and lives.

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