IFC Divests from Yoma Bank After Myanmar Military Links Exposed   

By Hein Htoo Zan 20 December 2022

The International Finance Corporation (IFC), a member of the World Bank Group, has divested from Yoma Bank after its business with military companies was exposed, according to activist group Justice For Myanmar (JFM).

Divestment by the IFC, the largest global development institution focused on the private sector in developing countries, came after JFM revealed Yoma Bank’s dealings with the military and its conglomerates.

In 2020, Yoma Bank extended a loan to Pinnacle Asia, a Myanmar company owned by Khin Thiri Thet Mon, daughter of military chief Min Aung Hlaing, who is accused of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity. The loan funded the company’s construction of telecom towers for the military-owned mobile operator, Mytel.

IFC has now sold its 4.5 percent stake in Yoma Bank to First Myanmar Investment (FMI) for US$5 million, which is equivalent to the IFC’s 2014 loan to equity deal, completed in 2019.

IFC signed the share sales agreement with FMI and Yoma Bank on December 12, according to JFM. Irrawaddy was not able to confirm this independently as neither Yoma Bank nor IFC heads of communication picked up phone calls.

The IFC’s divestment from Yoma Bank is a positive step if it cannot prevent the bank from doing business with the military, which is waging a war of terror against the people of Myanmar, said JFM.

JFM also urged IFC to disengage responsibly from Yoma Bank and consult with Myanmar’s parallel civilian National Unity Government (NUG).

“IFC should be transparent over their divestment plans, human rights due diligence and any attempts they made to prevent Yoma Bank’s business with the junta and its conglomerates” said Ma Yadanar Maung, JFM spokesperson.

She said that the IFC acquired equity in Yoma Bank following the Myanmar military’s 2017 campaign of genocide against the Rohingya and should have done due diligence at the time on the bank’s support for the Myanmar military, its businesses and associates.

JFM pointed out that the IFC’s failure to prevent Yoma Bank’s support for military businesses and Min Aung Hlaing’s own family suggests serious human rights failings that require investigation and rectification if IFC plans to continue operating in Myanmar.

It also called on the IFC to stop renting an office in Sule Square, a development on land leased from the US-sanctioned Quarter Master General Office, and end any remaining business with the junta, its conglomerates and partners.

“We call on Yoma Bank’s remaining international investors, Norfund and GIC, to ensure Yoma Bank cuts all ties with the Myanmar junta, its businesses and partners, or responsibly divest, in accordance with their international human rights responsibilities,” said Yadanar Maung.