Rights group Justice for Myanmar (JFM) on Tuesday called on Euromoney, the UK-based financial media corporation, to withdraw an award it gave to United Amara Bank (UAB), a business interest of the family of U Aung Thaung, a notorious hardline supporter of the previous regime.
Euromoney awarded UAB the title of “Best Bank” in Myanmar last month, for the third straight time. The London-based publisher said on its website on July 14 that it didn’t give an award in Myanmar last year in light of the military coup but opted to recognize UAB again this year, saying the bank was able to deliver results despite the twin shocks of the political crisis and the pandemic.
Euromoney’s sister publication Asiamoney has also recognized UAB with several country awards: “Best Domestic Bank”, “Best Bank for ESG” and “Best Bank for SMEs”.
UAB was established in 2010 by U Ne Aung, son of the late U Aung Thaung and brother of Moe Aung, the commander-in-chief of the Myanmar Navy. It was set up under the control of U Ne Aung’s business conglomerate International Group of Entrepreneurs (IGE) Co. Ltd.
The EU sanctioned IGE on Feb. 21, 2022. In its sanctions designation, the EU stated that IGE provided the military with financial support for its 2017 “clearance operations” in Rakhine State, thus contributing to serious human rights violations that year against the Rohingya population.
IGE has also provided the Tatmadaw (Myanmar’s military) with indirect financial support by participating in several projects and companies linked to the military and its conglomerates, the EU stated.
JFM—a group of activists monitoring the business interests of the Myanmar military—said Ne Aung and his wife Khin Moe Nyunt were the sole owners of UAB until March 8, 2022, when they transferred their shares to two shell companies, days after the EU sanctions against IGE.
However, the restructure was an attempt to evade sanctions by creating a false separation between UAB, IGE and Ne Aung, and UAB remains linked to IGE, JFM stated.
“Despite attempts at concealment, UAB is clearly linked to Ne Aung’s IGE group, a business empire that has built immense wealth from dealings with the Myanmar military and its conglomerates, profiting from the military’s systemic corruption and enriching war criminals,” JFM spokesperson Yadanar Maung said in the statement.
“It is inexcusable that Euromoney has given its ‘Best Bank in Myanmar’ award to UAB, reputation laundering for a bank that is deeply connected to an EU-sanctioned company,” she added.
JFM said Asiamoney also gave a CSR (corporate social responsibility) award to crony bank KBZ, part of KBZ Group of Companies. The UN Independent International Fact-Finding Mission has called for an investigation into KBZ Group for allegedly contributing to crimes against humanity committed by the junta.
KBZ is linked to the UK-, US- and EU-sanctioned military conglomerate Myanma Economic Holdings Limited (MEHL). KBZ used its philanthropic arm, the Brighter Future Foundation, to make major donations to the military in support of the 2017 Rohingya genocide, the activist group stated.
“The junta’s international crimes are enabled by IGE, KBZ and other crony companies that provide the junta with sources of revenue to finance its campaign of terror,” it said. “Euromoney and Asiamoney must act responsibly and revoke their awards to UAB and KBZ immediately.”
Since the coup in February last year, the junta has killed more than 2,200 people and arrested over 15,100, according to the Assistance Association of Political Prisoners.