(Header image: Burma Campaign UK)
Pressure group Burma Campaign UK (BCUK) has published the latest iteration of its ‘Dirty List’, adding 28 new companies said to be linked to the Burmese military and, as such, to human rights violations and the environmental destruction of Burma.
The additions to the list — which now targets 116 entities — are registered across 12 different countries: the majority from Japan and Vietnam, with three from the United States, and one from Thailand, Turkey, UAE, China, India, Canada, Russia, Hong Kong, and Singapore respectively.
BCUK director Mark Farmaner says that, despite a May 2021 commitment made by Japan (as part of the G7) to observe an embargo on the sale of arms to the junta, the country continues to do business with the military across other sectors. Companies recently added to BCUK’s list include the Japanese Bank for International Cooperation and Japanese Overseas Infrastructure Investment Corporation — who were added due to their funding of the military’s US$330 million Y Complex real estate development project — and the Japan Credit Bureau for their partnership with the military’s Myawaddy Bank.
“You do see the role of Japan in their willingness to work with the burmese military and for Japanese companies to remain in business relationships with the military is significant,” he said. “So there’s a real inconsistency there at the heart of Japanese policy– that they’ll fund [military companies participating in] arms sales but they won’t fund the arm sales themselves.”
One new addition, Japanese company Tasaki, has been accused of sourcing pearls through subsidiary Myanmar Pearl Enterprise (MPE), sanctioned by both the US and UK after MPE returned to military ownership following the coup. Last April, activists Justice for Myanmar alleged that Tasaki was operating in Burma under a revenue-sharing agreement with MPE.
In correspondence with DVB, Tasaki refuted its inclusion, saying that no commercial relationship or joint ventures exist between them and the military, and that operations were being overseen by a local subsidiary farming in the same area as both local and foreign pearl divers.
“The safety, security and wellbeing of our employees remains our primary concern. We will pay the highest attention to the local situation, especially in our pearl farm area and will take the most appropriate measures,” said Tasaki head of administration Katsuya Tsujishita, adding that any violence against the people of Myanmar is “unacceptable.”
“We hope to see a swift resolution of the current situation based on dialogue and reconciliation in accordance with the will and interests of the people of Myanmar.”
In response, Farmaner provided DVB with two pages referencing Tasaki’s pearl farming initiatives in Myanmar and the company’s links to the MPE that had recently been removed from the company’s website.
Other notable additions to the Dirty List include American aerospace firm, Honeywell. The conglomerate is reported to have provided an engine to India’s Hindustan Aeronautic Ltd (HAL), which, in turn, is allegedly planning to sell a weaponized Hindustan Turbo Trainer-40 aircraft (HTT-40) to the Myanmar Air Force as it intensifies airstrikes against civilian populations.
A number of Vietnamese shipping companies, who have continued to use Yangon ports directly owned and operated by the military, are also included.
Notably, several tech companies have also been added to BCUK’s list. Popular UAE-registered messaging service Telegram is cited for continuing to provide a platform to military outlets, for promoting hate speech, and for facilitating the doxing of anti-coup activists.
Following Burma Campaign’s announcement, Telegram has removed the accounts of two high-profile pro-military trolls: Han Nyein Oo and Thazin Oo. Despite this, “Han Nyein Oo” retains multiple accounts — one of which claims in excess of 50,000 followers — whilst hundreds of Burma Army soldiers and pro-military figures continue to post content promoting violence and hate speech.
Canadian internet technology company Tucows has also been cited by BCUK due to its hosting of the military-owned Gandamar Ballroom website through subsidiary Enom. Additionally, American cybersecurity firm Sectigo, and affiliated company Sitelock, are said to be providing services for the junta’s Ministry of Home Affairs website.
“We found that tech companies were the worst of all to try to engage with; they don’t respond to our letters and correspondence,” he said, adding the legal basis behind hosting websites for sanctioned entities is questionable. “We find that oil and tobacco companies are easier to deal with than tech companies, especially the American tech companies.”
Companies have been given several weeks’ notice by BCUK in which to disassociate or divest and be taken off the list. However, the pressure group says that new additions have so far failed to respond to correspondence. Aside from Tasaki, no companies approached by DVB for comment have yet replied.