Myanmar’s NUG Lauds Norwegian Fund’s Exit From Junta’s Indian Business Partner

By The Irrawaddy 23 June 2021

Myanmar’s civilian National Unity Government (NUG) has welcomed the decision of Norway’s largest pension fund KLP to divest from Adani Ports and Special Economic Zone Limited on the grounds that the Indian company’s links with the Myanmar military breach the fund’s responsible investment policy.

Adani Ports, India’s largest port operator, has been under scrutiny from international investors over its project to build a container terminal in Yangon on land leased from military-owned conglomerate Myanmar Economic Corporation (MEC).

According to a Reuters report published on Tuesday, KLP is divesting from the company because the container terminal is being built on land owned by the Myanmar military and there is an “imminent danger” the armed forces could use the port to import weapons and equipment, or as a naval base.

“In this way, the port could be used by the army to continue its violations of human rights,” KLP said.

At the time of its decision, KLP’s investment in Adani Ports was worth 9 million Norwegian krone (US$1.05 million), the report said.

U Aung Myo Min, the NUG minister for human rights, said KLP’s decision shows that global businesses, in addition to foreign governments, are starting to hear the voices of the people of Myanmar, who have called for a suspension of investment in the country and a halt to economic cooperation with the military, which has been committing atrocities against its own citizens.

The Myanmar military staged a coup on the morning of Feb. 1 and detained civilian leaders including State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and President U Win Myint. The military declared a state of emergency and formed its own governing body. Since then the military regime’s forces have killed at least 875 civilians and detained over 5,000 people.

The minister said it was “a good move by the KLP” to dissociate itself from a company that operates a joint venture with a military-owned business.

“We had called for the suspension of foreign companies working with the military. This is just a first step and we are hopeful that other businesses and investments will follow in the steps of the Norwegian pension fund,” he added.

Though it is hard to estimate the exact financial cost to the MEC of KLP’s move, the pension fund is no longer contributing to the military’s ability to buy ammunition and weapons that will be used against Myanmar civilians, he added.

On March 25, the US imposed targeted financial sanctions on MEC and the military’s other conglomerate, Myanmar Economic Holdings Public Company Limited (MEHL), because of their links to grave human rights abuses.

In the wake of the Feb. 1 coup, Adani Group issued a statement denying it had engaged with military leaders over the 2019 approval of its $290-million port.

Citing leaked Yangon Region Investment Commission documents, Australia’s ABC News reported in late March that the Adani Group had paid $30 million to MEC in “land lease fees”.

MEC is likely to get another $22 million as “land clearance fees” for the port despite human rights groups having called on Adani Ports’ investors to divest, said a joint report on March 30 by the Australian Centre for International Justice and activist group Justice For Myanmar.

On March 31, Adani issued a statement alleging that media reports had misrepresented its investments in Myanmar. The company said it sought to support job creation and development in the country and “to foster a business environment that respects human rights.”

Following KLP’s divestment from the Adani company’s Myanmar project, the Indian company’s share price fell more than 2 percent intraday on Wednesday.

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