Australia’s ANZ Bank announced on Tuesday that it will pull out of Myanmar by early 2023 due to “rising operational complexities” over the past several months.
The bank’s managing director Simon Ireland said the decision was made after careful consideration of local operating conditions.
“Our international network and support of trade and capital flows for customers around the region is a critical part of our strategy, and will continue to be for the long term,” Ireland said.
ANZ’s decision to leave Myanmar comes about three weeks after activist group, Justice for Myanmar (JFM), exposed the bank’s dealings with Innwa Bank, a subsidiary of the military-owned Myanmar Economic Corporation (MEC). Information of the transactions was found in data released by the whistleblower site Distributed Denial of Secrets.
JFM welcomed the bank’s announcement, saying ANZ – which has been in Myanmar since 2015 – will be the first international bank to leave the country and its decision follows the blacklisting of Myanmar by the FATF (Financial Action Task Force).
The group also reported on Nov. 2 that ANZ had dodged existing Australian sanctions in its transactions with Innwa. In 2011 and 2018, Australia banned the export of arms to Myanmar and has frozen the assets of five military commanders.
JFM said that since the military’s illegal coup, the Australian bank has continued transactions with the US, UK and EU-sanctioned Innwa Bank and facilitated customer payments to the military junta. It was able to do so due to the Australian government’s refusal to sanction the junta and its businesses.
“We call on the Australian government to support the people of Myanmar and take a clear stand for democracy and human rights by sanctioning the illegal junta and its businesses,” said Ma Yadanar Maung, JFM spokesperson.
Innwa records released by Distributed Denial of Secrets and JFM show Australia’s ANZ and UOB of Singapore are among the international banks transacting with Innwa.
After Innwa was slapped with US sanctions, the Hong Kong-based insurance corporation AIA used ANZ to transfer funds to the bank in August and September 2021.
Malaysian company Edotco, which leases telecom towers to Mytel mobile operator, which is partly owned by MEC, also used ANZ for transactions with Innwa Bank in 2021.
Sean Turnell, Australian economist and adviser to deposed leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who was released on November 17 under a mass amnesty, told Reuters and Australian newspapers that Canberra should sanction Myanmar’ s junta and its bankers.
He pointed out that the junta regime has completely shattered Myanmar people’s dreams and he fully supported sanctions against the regime’s officials and their bankers.