UK Rights Group Expands ‘Dirty List’ of Companies with Ties to Myanmar Army 

By The Irrawaddy 20 August 2019

YANGON—Nearly 40 international firms including US tech giants Google and Apple, as well as Britain’s Peel Group, China’s Huawei and Japanese financial services company JCB have been added to Burma Campaign UK’s “Dirty List” for doing business with the Myanmar military.

The UK-based rights group on Monday published an updated list of more than 80 companies—including 38 new entries—with ties to Myanmar military-owned businesses or projects linked to gross human rights violations and environmental destruction in the country.

The report accused the US tech giants of hosting applications used by Myanmar military commander-in-chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing and military-related companies.

The Burcamp UK report follows an Aug. 5 report by the UN Fact-Finding Mission (FFM) on Myanmar exposing military-owned and affiliated businesses across the country. The report named nearly 60 foreign firms directly or indirectly doing business with the Myanmar military (or Tamadaw). Whereas FFM’s lengthy report focused on foreign firms that indirectly earn income for the military, Burcamp UK’s latest report includes a wide range of companies with various types of links to military-backed businesses such as telecom operator Mytel.

Regarding the US tech giants, while Apple and Google don’t work directly with or invest in Myanmar military-owned companies, they allow Mytel and other military-affiliated businesses to access their platforms—a practice Burcamp UK urged them to stop.

The FFM and international rights defenders have called for Sen-Gen Min Aung Hlaing and other top brass to be prosecuted at the International Criminal Court for their role in the 2017 Rohingya crisis, which saw 700,000 Rohingya expelled to neighboring Bangladesh from northern Rakhine State.

Burcamp UK also strongly criticized Britain, the European Union and other governments around the world for failing to impose targeted sanctions against military-owned and controlled companies while allowing companies from their countries to continue doing business with the military in Myanmar, thereby helping to fund its operations.

In a prepared statement by Burcamp UK, director Mark Farmaner said, “When an international company does business with a military-owned company, including promoting their products, they are helping the military to make the money it uses to commit violations of human rights.”

The group said that all 38 companies on the list were given the opportunity to respond to the accusations prior to its publication on Burcamp UK’s website, but the vast majority of companies did not respond.

The group’s previous “Dirty List”, published in December 2018, contained 49 companies. Three of those companies ended their business ties with the military and one company has since been merged with a parent company that was also on the list, taking the total count on the list to 83.  

Most of the foreign firms on the list are from China, the US, Britain, Russia, France, Japan, Belgium, India, Singapore and Thailand. British company Peel Group, a real estate and transport company, manages a military-owned port in Yangon.

 The report stated that Chinese communications technology company Huawei is helping army-backed Mytel develop a 5G network in Myanmar, which is expected to be operational in the coming years. US company TPG Capital, which owns two telecom tower companies, is also currently working with Mytel. In the financial sector, Belgium-based cooperative SWIFT, a financial information firm, provides services for Myanmar military-controlled Innwa Bank and Myawaddy Bank.

In the arms trading business, Russian state-owned KTRV has been accused of supplying air-to-air missiles to the Myanmar military for decades, in violation of US sanctions. Hongdu Aviation Industry Group, a subsidiary of Chinese state-owned defense and aerospace company AVIC, is listed for supplying a number of JL-8s—a key fighter jet—to the Myanmar military, which used them during a conflict in Kachin State in 2013. Two Indian companies, Larsen & Toubro, and Bharat Dynamics Limited, are also mentioned in the report for selling Shyena torpedoes to the Myanmar Navy.