Myanmar: CSOs urge Western Union to end its business relationship with a military-owned bank; company responds

An open letter report by 33 civil society organizations alleging that by having a business relationship with a military-owned bank in Myanmar, Western Union is supporting the military’s financial capacity. In turn, the open letter alleges that Western Union “is doing business with a military responsible for the rape of thousands of women, and the killing of thousands more.”

Business and Human Rights Resource Centre invited Western Union to respond to the allegations. The open letter and Western Union’s response is linked below.

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10 November 2019

Myanmar: Western Union reportedly backs Myanmar’s military through its business relationship with military-owned bank

Author: 33 Civil Society Organizations

"Open letter to Western Union President and CEO Hikmet Ersek", 29 Oct 2019

We represent 33 organizations calling on Western Union to end its business relationship with Burma’s military. The Burmese military has been accused by United Nations investigators of being responsible for genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity.

Western Union is in a business relationship with a military-owned bank in Burma, which it uses as one of its agents in the country. Myawaddy Bank is a subsidiary of a giant military business conglomerate called Union of Myanmar Economic Holdings Ltd (UMEHL). Profits from Myawaddy Bank benefit the military…

Western Union is doing business with a military responsible for the rape of thousands of women, and the killing of thousands more. There are plenty of alternative non-military companies in Burma that Western Union can use in Burma. There is no justification for putting money into the pockets of Burma’s brutal military…

By partnering with Burma’s generals, Western Union puts at risk its reputation and that of its top management.

We urge Western Union to end its partnership with Myawaddy Bank. We further urge Western Union to adopt a policy of not doing business with any Burmese military-owned or military-controlled companies and conduct the necessary thorough due diligence to ensure that it does not partner with such companies again.

Read the full post here

Company response
10 November 2019

Western Union's response

Author: Western Union

…Western Union condemns human rights abuses, including human trafficking, human smuggling and any form of modern slavery.

Remittances are a one-on-one transaction between family and friends, directly supporting the people of Myanmar. They are governed by applicable regulations, including sanctions and regulatory reporting requirements.

Providing remittance services requires the use of local agents remunerated by a commission payment. All agents selected to offer our services to the people of Myanmar undergo rigorous due diligence and they are an important conduit to making remittance accessible to the people of Myanmar. Western Union conducts agent due diligence and oversight through periodic reviews to determine whether the agents satisfy relevant regulatory requirements and Western Union policies. In many cases, we conduct our own research, both to confirm that information provided by our agents is consistent with that in the public domain, and to independently assess whether the agent meets our standards.

As a matter of practice, we continue to evaluate our business relationships from an environmental, social, and governance perspective. We take information received from outside parties very seriously and we are reviewing this matter accordingly. We will inform all appropriate stakeholders on the outcomes of our discussions as soon as practicable.


Download the full document here