Myanmar’s KBZ Group Dissolves Subsidiary That Operated Jade Mine With Military

By The Irrawaddy 27 January 2022

The Kanbawza Group of Companies (KBZ) has dissolved its subsidiary Nilar Yoma Gems Co. Ltd., which engaged in jade mining through a venture with military-owned Myanma Economic Holdings Limited (MEHL).

Kanbawza Group said it dissolved Nilar Yoma on Jan. 21. The company operated a jade mine in Sagaing Region in partnership with MEHL for many years.

Kanbawza told Amnesty International (AI) in 2020 that it was reviewing its business partnership with MEHL.

A report released by AI in September of that year exposed international businesses’ financial ties to Myanmar’s military, including many units directly responsible for crimes under international law and other human rights violations. By doing business with the conglomerate, such businesses bore some responsibility for the crimes and violations, the report said.

AI wrote to eight companies that operate jointly with MEHL in Myanmar including Kanbawza and Japanese beverage giant Kirin, which replied that they were reviewing their relationship with the military conglomerate.

However, an individual involved in Nilar Yoma’s dissolution process said a decline in the jade and gems trade caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and the post-coup political turmoil were behind the move.

“As everyone knows, we are in a crisis now, and businesses that are not operating are dissolved,” he told The Irrawaddy.

He said Nilar Yoma had not operated for some two years, and had long ceased its partnership with MEHL.

Kanbawza Group is one of the largest privately owned diversified groups of companies in Myanmar, with interests in the mining, banking, aviation, insurance, manufacturing, real estate, trading and other industries.

In a 2019 report, the UN Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar detailed how companies with links to Myanmar’s military helped finance its atrocities against self-identifying Rohingya in Rakhine State in 2017.

The report named two companies, KBZ Group and Max Myanmar, as having helped finance the construction of a barrier fence along the Myanmar-Bangladesh border “knowing that it would contribute to the suffering and anguish associated with preventing the displaced Rohingya population from returning to their homes and land.”

“Officials of these companies should be investigated with a view to criminal prosecution for making substantial and direct contributions to the commission of crimes under international law, including crimes against humanity,” mission expert Chris Sidoti said.

Western countries have imposed sanctions on Myanmar Timber Enterprise, Myanmar Pearl Enterprise and Myanmar Gems Enterprise, which are cash cow businesses for the regime. Human rights groups are also calling for sanctions against Myanmar Oil and Gas Enterprise.

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