ASEAN a Source of Arms, Investment for Myanmar Junta: Report

By The Irrawaddy 18 February 2022

Despite its souring relationship with the Myanmar junta, some governments and businesses from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) have supplied arms, funds and investments to the Myanmar military.

ASEAN is a 10-member bloc made up of Southeast Asian countries, including Myanmar.

According to the latest report by Justice for Myanmar (JFM), a group of activists campaigning for justice and accountability for the people of Myanmar, six countries—Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam, Cambodia, Singapore and Thailand—are involved in sectors including arms sales, telecoms and oil and gas.

The report comes at a time when the Myanmar regime is being shunned by other ASEAN member states, which have barred the junta’s top officials from its summits for its failure to honor its promises to solve the country’s political crisis, including ceasing violence. Myanmar has been in social and political turmoil since February last year after the military staged a coup. The regime has killed more than 1,500 people so far, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (Burma).

JFM released the statement on Thursday as ASEAN held a summit in Cambodia and mainly discussed the Myanmar crisis. Myanmar’s top diplomat Wunna Maung Lwin was barred from the summit in Phnom Penh over a lack of progress in defusing the violence and implementing the five-point consensus.

JFM said in the report that Indonesia and the Philippines have supplied arms to the junta.

An Indonesian state owned enterprise, PT Pindad, exported bullets to Myanmar in 2020. And Philippine arms manufacturing company United Defense Manufacturing Corporation (UDMC) shipped guns to Myanmar in August 2017.

In the telecommunications sector, Viettel Global, owned by the Vietnamese Ministry of National Defense, is a joint investor with a Myanmar military conglomerate in Mytel.

Mytel is a major source of revenue and technology for the Myanmar military.

She Zhi Jiang, a Cambodian citizen, is the main investor in the Yatai City project in Shwe Kokko, Myawaddy Township, a huge real estate, casino and entertainment development.

Yatai City is being developed as a joint venture with the Karen State Border Guard Force, a militia group under the command of the Myanmar military.

In the financial sector, Singapore is a key source of business activities between the Myanmar military and its partners.

JFM reported that the Singapore Stock Exchange (SGX)-listed Emerging Towns & Cities Singapore (ETC) made payments worth millions of dollars to the regime for property development by renting property from the Quartermaster General’s Office of the Myanmar army.

In the oil and gas sector, PTT Public Co. Ltd, whose majority shareholder is the government of Thailand, is an operator and investor in multiple gas exploration projects in Myanmar.

PTT Exploration and Production (PTTEP), a subsidiary of PTT, will be alone at the Yadana gas production project in Myanmar as Total Energies from France and Chevron Corp of the US plan to exit the country due to the humanitarian situation following last years’ coup.

The Blood Money Campaign, which works to keep the military regime from earning foreign currency income and to prevent international businesses from working with the military, called on ASEAN members and other foreign countries to stop doing business with the military.

Ko Ye, a spokesperson for the campaign, said, “Rather than telling the junta to stop the violence and crimes, they need to get involved in practical efforts to cut out doing business with the junta.”

JFM pointed out that no ASEAN countries have placed sanctions on the junta or its businesses.

Yadanar Maung, a spokesperson for JFM, said, “ASEAN governments and companies must immediately end business with the military junta and its partners, and stop supplying arms and equipment to the terrorist military.”

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