UN urges boycott of Myanmar business with military ties that help fund human rights abuses

In a media statement earlier today (5 Aug), the United Nations (UN) Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar urged the international community to cut ties with Myanmar’s military and the businesses that it controls and relies on.

The report revealed that a UN fact-finding team has discovered a vast web of Myanmar’s businesses with connections to the military that are providing funds to allow the military to continue its extensive and systematic human rights violations.

Hence, the world body is calling for an embargo on arms sales to the Tatmadaw, Myanmar’s military, and targeted sanctions against businesses with military ties, citing that there at least 14 defence companies from seven countries still supplying the country with military equipment.

“The implementation of the recommendations in this report will erode the economic base of the military, undercut its obstruction of the reform process, impair its ability to carry out military operations without oversight and thus reduce violations of human rights and international humanitarian law, and serve as a form of accountability in the short-term,” said Mission Chair Marzuki Darusman.

A 111-page report by the Mission, released in Geneva, contains five annexes that list military businesses and foreign and domestic businesses that contribute to or benefit from the Tatmadaw and its operations.

The report noted two of Myanmar’s most opaque enterprises, Myanmar Economic Holdings Limited (MEHL) and Myanmar Economic Corporation (MEC), both of which are owned and influenced by senior military leaders. Among them are Commander-in-Chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing and Deputy Commander-in-Chief Vice Senior General Soe Win.

The UN hinted that these two figures should be investigated and prosecuted for genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes, including acts committed during the military’s brutal “clearance operations” against the Rohingya in 2017.

The report also found about 15 foreign companies have joint ventures with the Tatmadaw, while 44 others had some form of commercial ties with the military-controlled businesses.

Moving forward, all companies doing business in or buying goods from Myanmar are advised to conduct strict due diligence to ensure they are not contributing the benefit of the Tatmadaw.

“The Mission’s findings from this investigation provide the international community with a more complete understanding of Myanmar’s human rights crisis; one that should compel the international community and individual States to take a coordinated multilateral approach to accountability, justice and ending the human rights crisis in Myanmar,” said Mission Expert Radhika Coomaraswamy.

“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,” added Mission Expert Christopher Sidoti.

Mission Chair Marzuki Darusman stated: ”Removing the Tatmadaw from Myanmar’s economy entails two parallel approaches. In addition to isolating the Tatmadaw financially, we have to promote economic ties with non-Tatmadaw companies and businesses in Myanmar. This will foster the continued liberalization and growth of Myanmar’s economy, including its natural resource sector, but in a manner that contributes to accountability, equity and transparency for its population.”