The Special Advisory Council for Myanmar (SAC-M) is launching a live record of actions taken since the attempted coup in Myanmar by states, businesses and other entities – including sanctions, operation suspensions and divestments – that contribute to cutting the junta’s finances.
The SAC-M is calling for a global ‘three cuts’ strategy against the junta in Myanmar: cut the weapons, cut the cash, cut the impunity.
The live record can be found here.
The junta in Myanmar – once the Myanmar military – is infamous for having a long-established and complex web of commercial interests composed of military-linked companies and subsidiaries, state-owned enterprises and private crony companies. The wealth generated through this corrupt system that spans Myanmar’s economy creates immense personal wealth for the junta’s leadership and enables its forces to carry out massive human rights violations across the country.
“The junta relies heavily on revenues from domestic and foreign business deals to support its operations and insulate its leaders from the extreme economic hardship they are forcing on the rest of the country,” Chris Sidoti of the SAC-M says.
“Cutting off the junta’s multi-million-dollar income is essential to support the people’s Civil Disobedience Movement, halt the junta’s massive human rights violations and hold the perpetrators accountable. This live record is intended to highlight who has taken action and who has not.”
Since launching a coup on 1 February 2021, the junta’s forces have murdered at least 840 people – including dozens of children – abducted and detained thousands, and committed brazen acts of torture, sexual and gender-based violence and other forms of extreme brutality.
The junta has launched airstrikes and fired heavy artillery into towns and villages in rural areas. Tens, or even hundreds, of thousands of people are newly displaced from their homes both in the cities and towns and along Myanmar’s western and eastern borders.
Responding to the many calls from Myanmar civil society organisations, states, businesses and other entities have begun taking action against the junta such as with targeted sanctions, operation suspensions and divestments. The SAC-M acknowledges and welcomes the efforts and actions taken so far and will continue to track future actions as well as their implementation.
“States and business enterprises have international legal obligations to respect human rights and must do the utmost to avoid that their activities and businesses cause adverse human rights impacts,” Marzuki Darusman of the SAC-M says.
“In view of these obligations, as part of the UN Independent Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar, we called in 2019 for complete economic disengagement from the Myanmar military, military leaders and their families, and corporations and businesses owned or controlled by the military. Those calls remain critical today.”
The SAC-M maintains that economic sanctions will work in Myanmar insofar as they are targeted at cutting the junta’s finances. Besides economic disengagement from the Myanmar military, the fact-finding mission also called for the promotion of economic ties and engagement with non-military companies in Myanmar as a means of building the non-military sector of the economy.
The inescapable fact is that at the moment it is impossible to do business in Myanmar. Under the current circumstances, businesses should be supporting the anti-coup resistance by suspending all operations in Myanmar apart from essential humanitarian operations.
However, in time the removal of the junta from the economy will create the legal and economic environment where corruption can be addressed seriously for the first time. It will open up greatly expanded opportunities for non-military businesses, local and foreign. Private business will be needed for the long-delayed economic development of Myanmar.
With the live record, the SAC-M intends to provide an overview of actions taken so far by states, businesses and other financial entities since 1 February 2021 towards cutting all direct or indirect financial support to the junta. The record is intended as a living document that the SAC-M will continue to maintain and update as necessary.
The SAC-M encourages business enterprises, including those that may not be mentioned in this record, to inform it of any relevant action undertaken with regard to their economic activities in Myanmar.
The record lists business enterprises that have proactively taken actions against the junta as a result of the coup and the ensuing human rights violations committed against civilians, who have resisted the unlawful attempted takeover of power. It does not include companies that had to suspend their business activities because of actions of the Civil Disobedience Movement.
“There are already signs that these collective cuts to the junta’s finances are starting to bite,” says Yanghee Lee of the SAC-M. “It is essential that we continue to build the pressure. A priority is coordinated international sanctions on the junta’s extractive industry so-called State-owned enterprises – including Myanmar Timber Enterprise, Myanmar Gems Enterprise, and of course, Myanmar Oil and Gas Enterprise.
“I first raised my concerns over these entities as UN Special Rapporteur in 2019. They are central to the junta’s finances, and it will use them to exploit every last inch of Myanmar’s natural wealth while oppressing the people and driving the country to ruin.”
Cutting the junta’s finances is part of a global ‘three cuts’ strategy that the SAC-M is calling for: cut the junta’s arms supply through comprehensive arms embargos, cut the cashflow through targeted economic sanctions and cut the junta’s impunity through referral to the International Criminal Court and other accountability mechanisms. The progress of all ‘three cuts’ will be tracked on the SAC-M’s website.
Yanghee Lee is the former UN special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, who held the mandate from 2014 to 2020
Marzuki Darusman is the former chair of the UN Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar (FFMM)
Chris Sidoti is a former member of the FFMM
In 2018, the FFMM called for the investigation and prosecution of Senior General Min Aung Hlaing and his top military leaders for genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.
In 2019, the FFMM exposed the extent to which the Myanmar military uses its own businesses, foreign companies and arms deals to sustain its operations and called for immediate targeted sanctions and arms embargoes.