02/19/2022, 12.54
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Yangon: report exposes Asean's dealings with military junta

Justice for Myanmar has documented trade between Southeast Asian nations and Burmese generals. Investments in real estate, oil and telecommunications. Countries in the region have not imposed sanctions on the army's activities.



Yangon (AsiaNews) - According to a report published by the activist group Justice for Myanmar (JFM) some members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) have done business with the Burmese military junta that took control of the country in a coup d'état on February 1 a year ago.

The Jfm issued its statements on 17 February, in conjunction with a summit of the regional organisation from which Burmese generals and officials were excluded (once again). Diplomat Wunna Maung Lwin did not attend the summit in Phnom Penh because Myanmar has shown no progress in reducing the level of violence and returning the country to a democratic trajectory.

In December, the junta bombed Loikaw, capital of Kayah State, causing an exodus of more than 400,000 displaced people, according to UNHCR figures. Local sources claim that ethnic militias and the army are now fighting all over the country, even in the central regions that were spared by the conflicts in the past.

At the moment, the army's income comes from a number of business entities controlled by the military, including the Myanma Oil and Gas Enterprise (Moge), the Myanmar Economic Corporation (Mec) and Myanma Economic Holdings (Mehl).

According to information gathered by Jfm, Thai firm PTT Exploration and Production operates the Zawtika gas field and is one of the investors in the Yadana well, which it is set to take control of following Total and Chevron's decisions to withdraw from the country. In the 2017-18 financial year, the Myanmar government had received over million for the Zawtika field and over 0 million for the Yadana field. Now the investments go directly into the junta's coffers.

In contrast, Indonesia and the Philippines have in recent years sold arms to the Tatmadaw (the Burmese army). Indonesia's state-owned company PT Pindad exported bullets to Myanmar in 2020 and now has a cooperation agreement with the True North company, owned by Htoo Htoo Shein Oo, son of the military junta's finance minister, Win Shein. 

The Vietnamese government invests in Myanmar's communications infrastructure through Viettel, a telecommunications company owned by the Ministry of Defence. Viettel is also an investor in the mobile phone company Mytel, another source of income for the military. Mytel is known for the surveillance it conducts on its customers.

A Chinese citizen with Cambodian citizenship, She Zhi Jiang, heads a real estate project in Karen State, Yatai City, which is being developed as a joint venture with the Karen State Border Guard Force, a militia group under the command of the Tatmadaw.

Proponents of the Blood Money campaign, which grew out of protests by Burmese trade unionists, called on Asean members to stop doing business with the military. "Instead of telling the junta to stop violence and crimes, practical efforts must be made to stop trade," said Ko Ye, a spokesman for the campaign.

The Jfm pointed out that no Asean country has so far imposed sanctions on the junta or its activities.

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