Thursday, December 12, 2019 | ePaper

On blood, sweat and tears of Rohingyas

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UN investigators asked for tougher sanctions against Myanmar's wealthy and powerful military as its web of economic interests has generated a fortune that helps fund atrocities. The UN fact-finding mission before launching a report in Jakarta urged the international community to sever links with the armed forces' economic holding. After complete expelling of Rohingyas from the ancestral land through killings and violence, the army-backed conglomerates are now developing several economic initiatives on the Rakhine State.   
It's believed that cutting ties will "impair the army's ability to carry out military operations without oversight and thus reduce violations of human rights". The UN team last year called for Myanmar's senior generals to be prosecuted for genocide after the 2017 crackdown forced some 740,000 Rohingya Muslims enter Bangladesh. In addition to extensive local partnerships, at least 15 foreign firms have joint ventures with the military, while 44 others have some form of commercial ties. Two main military-owned conglomerates -- Myanmar Economic Holdings Limited (MEHL) and Myanmar Economic Corporation (MEC) -- as well as numerous subsidiaries and "crony companies" have interests in everything from jade and ruby mining to real estate and tourism. The military also controls two large banks.
The UN probe argued the army's "business empire" allows it to evade accountability and oversight. The 111-page report also detailed how dozens of private companies donated more than $10 million to the military amid operations against the Rohingyas. They later helped finance development projects, assisting the military to "erase evidence of Rohingya belonging to Myanmar". The report demanded criminal investigations into these companies and urged for a complete ban on arms sales to Myanmar. We believe governments and companies across the world who find themselves connected to a military company can therefore no longer plead ignorance.  
The report comes after the US announced a travel ban on Myanmar's army chief last month, the strongest censure yet from a Western power since the Rohingya crisis. The military remains politically powerful in the country despite a transition to democratic rule launched in 2011. The world has more responsibility to protect the Rohingyas and compel Myanmar's de-facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi and military establishment to bring back the minority Muslims.

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