ASEAN governments and companies complicit in the Myanmar military's atrocity crimes

February 17, 2022

Governments and companies in South East Asia that have provided support for Myanmar’s military are revealed in a new section of Justice For Myanmar’s Cartel Finance Map. The map visualises the business links that provide arms, services, finance and investment to the military. Through these business links, the military has effectively financed the Rohingya genocide and the junta’s current campaign of terror against the Myanmar people.

Following its attempted coup in February 2021, the Myanmar military has murdered over 2,000 civilians and arrested over 12,000 more.

The military receives revenue through the business entities that it controls, including Myanma Oil and Gas Enterprise (MOGE), Myanmar Economic Corporation Ltd (MEC) and Myanma Economic Holdings Public Co. Ltd (MEHL), among others.

Governments of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) are directly implicated through their business interests in Myanmar – via state-owned enterprises, oil and gas companies, arms manufacturers, stock exchanges, banks, significant individual investors and more. 

Based on the findings of extensive research, the following are some examples from the map of the economic interests that link Southeast Asian governments and companies to Myanmar’s military junta. Explore the Cartel Finance Map.

Supplying weapons

Philippine arms manufacturer United Defense Manufacturing Corporation (UDMC) shipped 450 kilos of guns to Myanmar as the military launched its campaign of genocide against the Rohingya in August 2017. Prior to this transaction, UDMC had spent years pursuing a business relationship with the Myanmar military, offering technology transfer and cooperation on arms manufacturing.

In 2020, Indonesia disclosed that its state-owned enterprise, PT. Pindad, has exported bullets to Myanmar. PT. Pindad has a cooperation agreement with arms broker, True North Co. Ltd, which is owned by the Htoo Htoo Shein Oo, the son of the Myanmar military junta’s planning and finance minister, Win Shein.

Energy sector investments that fund the junta

State-owned oil company, Brunei Energy Services & Trading, has a joint investment in three oil blocks in Myanmar with International Group of Entrepreneurs (IGE). IGE is a crony conglomerate owned by Ne Aung, the son of a former military lieutenant colonel and minister for industry under the previous military dictatorship. While development of the blocks is currently suspended, the company owes USD$20 million to the junta-controlled Myanmar Oil and Gas Enterprise (MOGE).

The Government of Thailand is a major investor in Myanmar’s energy sector. PTT Exploration and Production Public Co. Ltd (PTTEP), majority owned by the Thai government, operates the Zawtika gas field and is an investor in the Yadana and Yetagun projects in Myanmar. The company is positioned to take over as operator of the Yadana project as well, following decisions by current operator Total, and Chevron, to divest from the project. In 2017-18, the Myanmar government received over USD$40 million for the Zawtika project and over $250 million for the Yadana project. These funds now flow to the junta.

Profiting from surveillance

The Government of Vietnam also invests in Myanmar’s infrastructure via Viettel, a telecommunications company owned by its Ministry of National Defence. Viettel Global is a joint investor, alongside a Myanmar military conglomerate, in mobile telephone company, Mytel. Mytel is controlled by – and is a major source of revenue and technology for – the Myanmar military. Mytel is also known to conduct surveillance on customers and support the military’s communications infrastructure in cooperation with the Myanmar army’s Directorate of Signals. 

Malaysian companies edotco and OCK Group lease telecommunications towers in Myanmar to Mytel. These companies have been supporting and profiting from Mytel’s expansion, which finances the military and threatens the privacy of Myanmar people.

Providing financial services for junta business

Singapore is a financial hub for the business activities of the Myanmar military and its partners, including arms dealers. For example, Singapore’s stock exchange has been used by Emerging Towns & Cities Singapore Ltd to raise funds for a property development that pays USD millions in rent to the Myanmar army. The company has suspended trading due to ongoing regulatory actions by the Singapore Exchange over payments to the Office of the Quartermaster General in Myanmar, which buys weapons for the Myanmar military. 

Investing in militia real estate

A naturalised Cambodian citizen and fugitive from China, She Zhi Jiang, is the main investor who controls the Yatai City project, a huge real estate, casino and entertainment precinct development in Karen State, Myanmar. Yatai City is being developed as a joint venture with the Karen State Border Guard Force, a militia group under command of the Myanmar military, and Myanmar Yatai International Holding Co. Ltd. The project is linked to organised crime and land confiscation, and it will be a lucrative source of revenue for the Myanmar military and their associates.

Companies withdrawing support for junta 

Since the illegal attempted coup in February 2021, some international companies have withdrawn from doing business with the Myanmar military under public and investor pressure. French oil company, Total, halted new projects in Myanmar following the coup attempt and recently also announced that it will exit from its last remaining operation in the Yadana gas field. The company has also called on the French government to adopt targeted sanctions to reduce the flow of funds to the junta. Major US oil company, Chevron, is also divesting from the Yadana project. Japanese company, Kirin, has announced it will end its brewery partnership with MEHL, and Adani Ports is preparing to withdraw from a port project that was set up in partnership with MEC.

Governments must withdraw business interests and adopt targeted sanctions 

Companies cannot be left alone to choose whether to continue their business with the military junta – governments must step up. So far, no ASEAN member state has placed targeted sanctions on Myanmar. Targeted sanctions have been imposed by the United States, United Kingdom, Canada and the European Union on some of the junta’s business interests and some senior junta individuals.

While more significant actions are desperately needed from around the world, Myanmar’s regional neighbours must urgently act to support the people of Myanmar. So far, they have done little to stop the military from committing grave crimes, crimes that also pose a threat to regional peace, security and stability.

In addition to the ASEAN member states’ lack of action, ASEAN’s regional dialogue partners, including Australia, India, Japan and South Korea, have also not imposed any sanctions on the illegal junta in response to the attempted coup. Australia passed a Magnitsky-style sanctions bill on December 2, 2021, but has not imposed any sanctions against the Myanmar military junta. New Zealand formally suspended high-level contact with the Myanmar military junta, but has so far failed to follow this up with targeted sanctions beyond a travel ban imposed on five senior junta officials. Companies domiciled in these countries also continue to pursue business with the Myanmar military junta and its conglomerates with impunity. These include the Australian mining firm Access Asia Mining, Indian arms manufacturer Bharat Electronics Limited, Japanese developer Daiwa House Industry and South Korean conglomerate POSCO.

JFM calls for

  1. ASEAN and regional governments and the entities they control to immediately suspend all payments to the illegal Myanmar military junta and their businesses and associates. 
  2. Pension funds and other institutional investors in ASEAN member states must stop investees from financing the terrorist Myanmar military junta, or divest.
  3. Businesses in ASEAN and regional countries must conduct continued human rights due diligence and ensure that their activities in Myanmar do not provide a source of revenue for the Myanmar military junta and its businesses. 
  4. ASEAN and regional member states must recognise the National Unity Government as the legitimate government of Myanmar, and stop inviting the junta and its representatives to all ASEAN summits and meetings.
  5. ASEAN’s dialogue partners – Australia, Japan, South Korea, UK, Canada and EU and others – must impose targeted sanctions against the military junta, its businesses and partners and also pressure ASEAN governments to no longer fund the military

About JFM’s Cartel Finance Map

Watch the video to learn more about why we are mapping the financial flows that are enabling the military junta in Myanmar and how they can be stopped and explore the Cartel Finance Map.