In 2019 the UN Human Rights Council’s Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar observed that the impunity of Myanmar’s military is directly linked to its ability to operate independently of any government budget. Through a vast network of military-owned businesses in mining, plantations, sugar mills, beverage manufacturing, transportation, telecommunications, banking, insurance, airlines, hotels and entertainment, the military has its own source of economic power. It also has close business partners.
The UN report identified 45 “crony companies” and organizations in Myanmar that donated more than USD 10 million to support the military’s clearance operations in Rakhine State in 2017. These same companies financed development projects in Rakhine State in mining and infrastructure that furthered the military’s “objective of re-engineering the region in a way that erases evidence of Rohingya belonging to Myanmar.”
The UN Human Rights Council concluded that stopping the atrocities and human rights violations committed by the military and ending this impunity requires the financial isolation the military, its businesses, and the crony companies. The report listed over 120 companies owned directly and indirectly by the military for the first time. It also listed dozens of local and foreign companies doing business with them – companies effectively financing the military’s impunity for crimes against humanity.
Max Myanmar was one of the crony companies identified in the report. The chairperson of Max Myanmar, Zaw Zaw, is among those company officials that the UN report recommended for prosecution: “… the Mission concludes on reasonable grounds that officials from KBZ Group and Max Myanmar aided, abetted, or otherwise assisted in the crimes against humanity of persecution and other inhumane acts.”
The government did nothing. Despite operating two luxury hotels with Max Myanmar, the Paris-based transnational hotel company Accor also did nothing.
Dozens of foreign companies, banks and commodities traders continued doing business with the companies identified by the UN Human Rights Council as being involved in crimes against humanity. Many accused these companies of doing nothing. But they did do something. They indirectly financed this coup.
We should also recall that the UN report called for an arms embargo, identifying 14 foreign companies from seven countries [China, North Korea, India, Israel, the Philippines, Russia and Ukraine] that supplied fighter jets, armored combat vehicles, warships, missiles and missile launchers to Myanmar since 2016. But nothing happened. The people of Myanmar are facing these armored combat vehicles in the streets today.
The financial isolation the military, its businesses, and the crony companies and an arms embargo is urgently needed by the people of Myanmar in the struggle to end military rule and restore the path to democracy. Every foreign company must be called to account to ensure that it has absolutely no direct or indirect business relationships with any of the 120 companies and 45 crony companies listed in the UN report.