Cutting off NZ support for the Myanmar Military
6th March 2023
Just over two years ago, on February 1st, a dark chapter was written in Myanmar's history as the military staged a brutal coup, sending the country into a human rights crisis. The military's response to resistance has been nothing short of horrific, with reports of war crimes, crimes against humanity, and indiscriminate attacks against innocent civilians. Despite the spiralling violence, torture and killings, the UN reports that “the will of the people has certainly not been broken.”
Situation: What is happening and why it is important?
In the past two years, over one million people have been forced to flee their homes and countless others have suffered at the hands of the military's violence. With over 2,900 confirmed deaths and 17,200 arrested, the real toll is believed to be much higher.
The military's atrocities range from airstrikes to burning down villages, sexual assault, and torture. The international community has taken notice and the military is now facing a genocide investigation by the International Court of Justice.
The violence continues as the military receives support from overseas companies in the form of funds, arms, jet fuel, and other services. This support, directly and indirectly, allows the military to carry out these acts of violence and human rights violations and will continue to do so for as long as the support is provided.
International sanctions in comparison to New Zealand:
Some of the international community is taking strong action against the human rights crisis in Myanmar, but New Zealand is lagging behind. Countries such as Australia, Canada, the UK, the USA, and the EU have quickly imposed sanctions targeting military conglomerates and state-owned enterprises controlled by the military and implemented embargos on the supply of arms and equipment to the military. Some countries have even gone as far to sanction companies, particularly those in the fossil fuel industry:
- The UK has sanctioned companies Asia Sun Trading Company Limited and Cargo Link Company Limited which broker the supply of jet fuel to the military;
- The EU has sanctioned military controlled Myanmar Oil and Gas Enterprise (MOGE) and No1 Mining Enterprise, as well as companies Htoo Group and IGE which provide financial and other support to the military;
- Norway’s sovereign wealth fund has excluded AviChina Industry & Technology and Bharat Electronics due to unacceptable risk that the companies are selling weapons for use by the Myanmar military; and
- Canada has become the first jurisdiction in the world to ban all supply of jet fuel to the military.
While the New Zealand government has put restrictions in place to suspend high level political and defence engagement with Myanmar and to ensure New Zealand’s aid programme to Myanmar does not include projects that benefit the military, it has yet to take action to stop support in the form of arms, fuel, and other services to the military. This puts us far behind the rest of the world in the fight against human rights violations.
How we got the data: Methodology
Mindful Money has undertaken research to identify the companies that are providing support to the Myanmar military, and therefore fuelling the military coup. We pulled together a list of 102 international companies involved in direct or indirect support from the following sources:
- The Burma Campaign UK ‘Dirty List’, which names international companies doing business with the military in Burma/Myanmar - https://burmacampaign.org.uk/take-action/dirty-list/
- The EIRIS Conflict Risk Network Burma/Myanmar Company List - https://eiriscrn.net/burma-myanmarcompanylist/
- Justice for Myanmar Campaign’s Multinational companies linked to Myanmar’s military and Dutch pension investment value - https://www.justiceformyanmar.org/stories/investing-in-the-military-cartel; and
- The United Nations Human Rights Council Report - The economic interests of the Myanmar military - https://www.ohchr.org/en/hr-bodies/hrc/myanmar-ffm/economic-interests-myanmar-military
Each company on this list was researched further to determine the extent, severity, and impact of their support to the military. We then categorised each company into the following:
- Serious offenders = where the company’s revenues are directly going to the military, or the company is directly supplying weapons, fuel, and services to the military; or
- Probable offenders = where companies are indirectly supporting the military with services such as mobile communication channels, or where the company’s operations have increased militarisation in a local area.
Through our research, we identified a total of 29 companies to be serious offenders that are contributing to the devastating damage the military has inflicted on Myanmar and its path to democratic recovery and growth. Among these were companies Adani, POSCO and PTTEP which attract most of the investment from New Zealand KiwiSaver and retail investment funds.
ADANI: Adani Group is an Indian conglomerate which, with subsidiary Adani Ports, has been accused of environmental destruction, making false and misleading statements, using tax havens, exploiting workers, and entering into a business partnership with the Myanmar military. Despite claims to disengage from its commercial relationships with the military by June 2022, Adani continues to operate in Myanmar and sell weapons and equipment to military, uses military facilities, and provides funds to the military.
The harm caused by Adani has already been recognised by others in the international community, as the Norwegian pension fund KLP has divested from Adani Ports, and the Australian Centre for International Justice has called Adani’s record in Myanmar a shocking account of the pursuit of profits ahead of commitments to respect human rights.
POSCO: POSCO is a Korean conglomerate involved in a variety of industries including steel, energy and car manufacturing. In Myanmar, POSCO is involved in gas exploration, production and transportation in blocks A-1 and A-3, including the Shwe Gas Project. Since the military coup, revenues from gas have gone to the military. The Shwe Gas project includes a pipeline across Myanmar to China which has been linked to conflict and human rights violations.
POSCO also operates the Shwe gas field in a profit-sharing agreement with the state-owned Myanmar Oil and Gas Enterprise (MOGE). The project is linked to forced relocation, forced labour, militarisation and sexual abuse. MOGE is now under control of the military and gas is the military’s biggest source of revenue. Several other international oil and gas companies operating in Myanmar are in joint ventures or contracts with MOGE.
PTTEP: PTTEP is a Thai Energy company. In Myanmar, PTTEP is a joint venture partner in the Yadana, Yetagun, and Zawtika gas projects. Since the military coup on 1st February 2021, the military took control of state-owned enterprises and now receives the revenue from gas production. PTTEP also owns 25% of pipeline company, the Moattama Gas Transportation Company, which moves gas from Myanmar’s offshore Yadana gas field to Myanmar and Thailand, paying millions of dollars in additional tariffs, fees, and tax payments to Myanmar military-controlled bank accounts in the process.
Other serious offenders are:
|Armscor International||A Philippine handgun manufacturer which is selling handguns to the military.|
|Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC)||A Chinese state-owned defence and aerospace company. Its subsidiary, Hongdu Aviation Industry Group, manufactures the aircrafts used by the military.|
|AviChina Industry & Technology||A Chinese company which manufactures and sells aviation tools and aeroparts and has sold combat aircrafts to the military. It is also believed to have sold missiles.|
|Azia Shipping Company||A Russian shipping company which owns cargo vessels that have delivered armoured vehicles and other military equipment destined for the military.|
|Bharat Electronics Ltd||An Indian Government-owned aerospace and defence electronics company which has supplied radar technology to the military.|
|China Aerospace Science and Industry Corporation (CASIC)||A Chinese state-owned space, aerospace, and defence company which has sold a ballistic missile system to the military.|
|China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp (CASC)||A Chinese state-owned company which primarily focusses on space technologies, but also manufactures missiles, drones, and other military equipment. CASC has sold multiple armed drones to the military through Aerospace Long-March International Trade Co, a company which it controls.|
|China National AeroTechnology Import & Export Corporation (CATIC)||A Chinese state-owned aircraft, construction, transport and engineering company which manufactures military transport planes used by the military.|
|China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC)||A joint venture with state owned Myanmar Oil & Gas Enterprise (MOGE), which has been under military control since the coup. Revenues of MOGE go to the military.|
|China North Industries Corporation (NORINCO) / Wanbao Mining||A Chinese state-owned company which supplies tanks and other military equipment to the military, and in 2017 signed an agreement for co-operation with the military. |
Norinco also owns the company Wanbao Mining which is involved in the Letpadaung Copper mine that is linked to environmental destruction and human rights violations against local people protesting the mine. Wanbao Mining is also a joint venture with the military-controlled Union of Myanmar Economic Holdings Ltd.
|China Poly Group Corporation (CPGC)||A Chinese company with a long history of supplying arms to the military. Most recently it has been involved in refurbishing frigates for the Myanmar navy. CPGC subsidiary Poly Technology was named in a proposal as being willing to supply guided cluster bombs to the military via Myanmar Consultancy Company.|
|Cognitive Cloud/DDOS Guard||A Russian company which provides website protection services for Min Aung Hlaing, head of the military.|
|GAIL||An Indian state-owned gas company which is a partner in the exploration and production of gas, including the Shwe gas project. Revenues from gas go to the military and the project includes a pipeline to China which has been linked to conflict and human rights violations.|
|Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL)||An Indian Aerospace company which manufactures military aircrafts and has transferred a second-hand aircraft to the Myanmar Air Force as aid. HAL also reportedly planned to sell a weaponised version of one of its training aircrafts to the military.|
|Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) Ltd||Israel's major aerospace and aviation manufacturer which has delivered fast attack crafts to the Myanmar navy.|
|KNDS/Nexter Group||A joint French and German military equipment manufacturer. Its subsidiary, Nexter Robotics, has sold robots to the military.|
|Korea Mining Development Trading Corporation KOMID||North Korea’s primary arms dealer, and main exporter of goods and equipment related to ballistic missiles and conventional weapons. KOMID was named by a UN Panel of Experts as being linked to importing materiel for the Myanmar Directorate for Defence Industries.|
|Korean Gas Corporation (KOGAS)||A Korean state-owned gas company involved in two gas fields including the Shwe gas project. Revenues from gas go to the military and the project includes a pipeline to China which has been linked to conflict and human rights violations.|
|Rostec – (State Corporation for Assistance to Development, Production and Export of Advanced Technology Industrial Product)||Russian Federation state-owned defence company which has engaged in a wide range of businesses including engineering, manufacturing, and military aircraft, and equipment. Rostec’s Russian Helicopters subsidiary supplied to the military and now helps maintain helicopters and helicopter gunships. Rostec also supplies missile systems to the military.|
|STE Global Trading ||A Singaporean company named by the UN Panel on North Korea sanctions as being linked to Tun Hlaing, Director of the Myanmar Directorate for Defence Industries. It is believed to be linked to breaking UN sanctions on North Korea enabling the military to procure weapons from the country.|
|Tactical Missile Weapons Corporation (KTRV)||A Russian state-owned defence company specialising in missile production, which has been supplying air to air missiles to the military for decades.|
|Tata Group/Tata Sons||Indian Tata companies are engaged in a wide range of business activities, including military equipment. Tata motors supplies equipment to the military, including the troop carriers and military staff cars.|
|Telegram||Run from Dubai, Telegram hosts the MWD military propaganda channel. It has also failed to act on numerous reports of military propaganda and people using doxing tactics releasing information leading to people being arrested by the military.|
|Tokyo Tatamono Co||A Japanese company which, along with Fujita, Tokyo Tatamono Co, Japan’s state investment firm JOIN, and the Japan Bank for International Cooperation, are involved in a consortium that pays rent to the military for land for a complex they built and financed.|
|Viettel||A Vietnamese state-owned mobile phone network operator in a joint venture with the military owned and controlled Myanmar Economic Corporation, in the MyTel mobile phone company. |
|Yatai Group||A Chinese conglomerate which has partnered with the Border Guard Force (BGF). BGF are under military control, and they are fighting side by side with the military. BFG control some areas of Karen State in Myanmar for business purposes, of which some developments have been linked to human rights violations.|
The above overseas corporations are involved in direct relationships with the military and directly contributing to the human rights crimes the military has inflicted on Myanmar. A longer list of other companies are indirectly supporting the military and its operations. Amongst these are tech companies Apple, Alphabet (Google) and Huawei, as they host applications for military-owned companies such as Mytel, which is a major telecommunications company in Myanmar. Mytel has been criticized and scrutinized for serving as a major source of revenue for the Myanmar military.
Further evidence of continued international support:
As the international community grows more aware of the situation in Myanmar, several campaigns and published reports continue to expose overseas companies that are linked to military support.
A recent report from the Special Advisory Council for Myanmar titled Fatal Business: Supplying the Myanmar Military’s Weapon Production notes that the military is producing a vast range of weapons to use against its own people where there is resistance to the coup. These weapons, including guns, ammunition and landmines are being assembled with supplies from companies in at least 13 countries. This support includes licenses, raw materials, software, parts, and components from countries such as the US, France, India and Japan, despite the Western-led sanctions mentioned earlier that are intended to isolate Myanmar.
The Justice for Myanmar campaign has also identified 22 international oilfield services companies active in Myanmar since the coup, with some having signed contracts with MOGE/POSCO. Among these are big names such as Baker Hughes, China Oilfield Services Limited, Halliburton, Hyundai Heavy Industries and Schlumberger.
Kiwis investing in the companies supporting the Myanmar military:
Many New Zealanders may be unaware that they are unknowingly investing in companies that are supporting the Myanmar military and its actions.
The vast majority (90%) of the New Zealand public have made it clear in annual surveys that they do not want their funds to go to companies involved in human rights violations.
However, as at the end of September 2022, a large number of funds were invested in the companies that are serious offenders in supporting the Myanmar military:
- KiwiSaver funds with total investments of almost $4.0m
- Retail investment funds with total investments of $4.5m
Overall, these are small investments compared to the total KiwiSaver and investment funds, but the scale of investment is more significant for specific funds.
Mindful Money has written to the fund providers invested in serious offenders to ask if they are still invested in these companies. If so, we have requested that they divest their direct holdings or, for those that are invested indirectly through index funds or diversified funds, to engage with their external fund providers.
Further information on the human rights crisis in Myanmar can be found at the following resources:
- Amnesty International’s page on Everything You Need to Know about Myanmar https://www.amnesty.org/en/location/asia-and-the-pacific/south-east-asia-and-the-pacific/myanmar/
- The Burma Campaign UK’s page on the situation in Burma (Myanmar) - https://burmacampaign.org.uk/about-burma/
- Human Rights Watch page with the latest news on the situation in Myanmar - https://www.hrw.org/asia/myanmar-burma
- Investor Alliance for Human Rights Investor Statement on Human Rights and Business Activities in Myanmar - https://investorsforhumanright...
- Justice for Myanmar website - https://www.justiceformyanmar.org/
- The Special Advisory Council on Myanmar's recent report which notes that several UN member states continue to sell weapons to the military - https://specialadvisorycouncil.org/wp-content/uploads/2023/01/SAC-M-REPORT-Fatal-Business-ENGLISH-1.pdf
United Nations, OHCHR latest news and statements related to Myanmar - https://www.ohchr.org/en/countries/myanmar