UN Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar exposes military business ties, calls for targeted sanctions & arms embargoes


This report by the U.N. Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar, for the first time, establishes in detail the degree to which Myanmar’s military has used its own businesses, foreign companies and arms deals to support brutal operations against ethnic groups that constitute serious crimes under international law, bypassing civilian oversight and evading accountability.

It follows recommendations the Mission’s Experts made last year after documenting how Myanmar’s armed forces brutally violated the human rights of ethnic groups nationwide. The 2018 report focused heavily on “clearance operations” against the Rohingya in Rakhine State that began on 25 August 2017, when security forces killed thousands of Rohingya civilians, raped and sexually abused women and girls, and burned their villages to the ground.

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26 August 2019

Fashion brands investigating situation in Myanmar following UN report exposing military business ties

Author: Shaun Turton, Nikkei Asian Review

Supplier lists disclosed by clothing companies and reviewed by the Nikkei Asian Review revealed several well-known brands sourcing from factories inside two industrial zones that, according to the U.N, are owned by military conglomerate Myanmar Economic Holdings Ltd...

"Esprit will be taking immediate action by stopping all future orders made to the Perfect Gains factory in Myanmar," the company wrote in an email, saying it was previously unaware of the military link. "Esprit will continue to closely monitor this concerning situation."

H&M said it would investigate the report's findings. In an email, they also said the company had held recurrent meetings with the Myanmar government during the past two years to stress the "importance and urgency" of following U.N. and European Union recommendations.

"H&M Group takes seriously the matters raised and we are at this moment going through every section of the report to be able to draw any conclusions and determine what actions are necessary and appropriate," the email stated.

"We are fully committed to using our influence beyond our formal and legal responsibilities to make sure we respect and promote human rights throughout our business."

BestSeller also said it would look into the report to "assess if we need to take any specific actions due to the findings." C&A and Next did not return requests for comments...

"Ethical trading is fundamental to how we make our clothes and all our suppliers must adhere to our Global Sourcing Principles," a [Marks & Spencers] spokesperson said in an email response.

"We regularly audit all of the factories we work with across the world, including those in Myanmar. We continue to monitor the market closely both through our conversations with the ETI and our on-the-ground auditing." ...

Neither MEHL nor Wise-Pacific responded to requests for comments...

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12 August 2019

Belgian company Newtec to cut ties with Myanmar's military after UN fact-finding mission

Author: Joshua Carroll, VOA News

A Belgian company has become the first to announce it is cutting ties with Myanmar’s military after a United Nations fact-finding mission called on businesses to sever all financial links to the country’s generals. 

Satellite communications firm Newtec said in a statement it would “follow the recommendations by the UN and stop commercial ties with Mytel,” a local mobile phone operator partially owned by the military...

“We will never knowingly sell to any organization or company linked to the Tatmadaw’s campaign of violence… and the atrocities committed against the Rohingya,” Newtec said...

A company that handles public relations for Mytel did not respond to a request for comment. 

Christopher Sidoti, a human rights lawyer and member of the UN panel, praised Newtec for following the recommendations...

But Mark Farmaner, a human rights campaigner who named Newtec on a “dirty list” of firms doing business with Myanmar’s military early this year, said Newtec should have acted sooner...

In a letter sent last November, the company’s CEO [...] threatened to sue Farmaner’s pressure group, Burma Campaign UK, if it publicized Newtec’s relationship with the military...

Newtec did not respond to a request for comment about its threat of legal action...

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9 August 2019

Genocide, business and human rights: The complexity of Myanmar and what investors and companies need to do about it

Author: Anna Triponel, Triponel Consulting and Daniel Fullerton

The United Nations Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar (FFM)’s released its report this week...

The FFM’s recent report shines the spotlight on the economic interests of Myanmar’s military and the strong connections between the Tatmadaw and businesses and investors. And now, unless businesses and investors take concerted action...Myanmar’s military will continue to use its far-reaching economic and business interests to avoid accountability...

If businesses are to act responsibly in Myanmar, they should play a role in advocating for a truth-telling and accountability process...

Additionally, the UNGPs do not prevent companies from choosing to play a role to support the Rohingya in Bangladesh...

Businesses and investors should also look to the guidance provided by the UN FFM, which lays out a road map of recommended actions for businesses or investors operating in or with ties to Myanmar....

Download the full document here

6 August 2019

Full report: The economic interests of the Myanmar military

Author: Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar

The U.N. Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar urged the international community on Monday to sever ties with Myanmar’s military and the vast web of companies it controls and relies on. The Mission said the revenues the military earns from domestic and foreign business deals substantially enhances its ability to carry out gross violations of human rights with impunity...

The Mission also called for the imposition of an arms embargo, citing at least 14 foreign firms from seven nations that have supplied fighter jets, armored combat vehicles, warships, missiles and missile launchers to Myanmar since 2016. During this period the military carried out extensive and systematic human rights violations against civilians in Kachin, Shan and Rakhine States, including the forced deportation of more than 700,000 ethnic Rohingya to Bangladesh...

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5 August 2019

Commentary: The world should hit Myanmar’s military where it hurts — in the wallet

Author: Paul Donowitz (Global Witness), Washington Post

...The report comes on the heels of the State Department’s announcement last month of travel bans against four Myanmar generals, including the armed forces’ commander in chief, Senior Gen. Min Aung Hlaing, for their role in what has been called genocide of the country’s Rohingya Muslim minority.

As the two-year anniversary of the coordinated attacks against the Rohingya approaches, with more than 800,000 people displaced and no end to the persecution or accountability for its perpetrators in sight, it is clear that the international community’s response has been inadequate and ineffective...

The investigators’ recommendations are clear: Governments should impose targeted financial sanctions on senior military officials and on all military-affiliated businesses, in addition to enacting a comprehensive arms embargo. Private businesses should not do business with the military-linked businesses or businesses owned or controlled by military figures.

This does not mean that governments and businesses should cut all ties with Myanmar, which would likely harm the whole economy, as critics of sanctions often argue. By providing a detailed list of military companies and their affiliates, the investigative team allows sanctions to be targeted, thus reducing their broader impact. Moreover, it is clear that sanctioning the military companies, often opaquely governed and inefficient behemoths, would in the long term, open space in the economy for the burgeoning private sector to compete in areas currently dominated by the military...

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5 August 2019

Myanmar Military’s Vast Business Revenue Enables Abuses, U.N. Says

Author: Richard C. Paddock, New York Times

The Myanmar military controls an extensive business empire that enables it to avoid accountability and conduct operations with impunity against ethnic groups, contributing to widespread human rights abuses, according to a United Nations report...

A United Nations fact-finding mission urged foreign businesses and governments to sever ties with more than 140 companies owned or controlled by the military, which has carried out acampaign of ethnic cleansing, murder and rape of Rohingya Muslims....

The mission found that at least 14 companies from seven nations, including Russia, China and North Korea, had provided arms and equipment to the Tatmadaw since 2016.

“The mission finds that any foreign business activity involving the Tatmadaw and its conglomerates M.E.H.L. and M.E.C. poses a high risk of contributing to, or being linked to, violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law,” the report said, using the initials for Myanmar Economic Holdings Limited and the Myanmar Economic Corporation.

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5 August 2019

Myanmar: Nearly 60 Foreign Firms Tied to Military Businesses: UN Report

Author: Irrawaddy (Myanmar)

...The report, released on Monday, states that at least 15 foreign firms are in joint ventures with Myanmar Economic Holdings Limited (MEHL) and Myanmar Economic Corporation (MEC)—military-owned business conglomerates led the military leaders—while 44 others have commercial ties to them.

The report accuses those companies of at the very least contributing to the military’s financial capacity to carry out human rights violations, particularly in ethnic areas like Kachin, Shan and Rakhine states.

The companies listed are mostly but not exclusively from Asian nations, with several based in  Europe. The list included companies from China, Singapore, Korea, India, Japan, Belgium, Israel, France and Switzerland, among others.

“The revenue that these military businesses generate strengthens the Tatmadaw’s autonomy from elected civilian oversight and provides financial support for the Tatmadaw’s operations with their wide array of international human rights and humanitarian law violations,” said Mission Expert Christopher Sidoti...

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