The Economic Interests of the Myanmar Military

Executive summary and key recommendations  

  1. The Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar (hereinafter “the Mission”) in its reports submitted to the Human Rights Council at its 39th session in September 2018 (hereinafter “2018 report”), established consistent patterns of serious human rights violations and abuses in Kachin, Shan and Rakhine States, in addition to serious violations of international humanitarian law between 2011 and 2018. The Mission concluded that many of these violations amounted to crimes against humanity and included murder; imprisonment; enforced disappearance; torture; rape, sexual slavery and other forms of sexual violence; persecution and enslavement. In addition, in Rakhine State, the elements of the crimes against humanity of extermination and deportation were also found to be present. The violations were principally committed by the Myanmar security forces, particularly the military, or Tatmadaw. Many of the violations documented amount to the gravest crimes under international law. The Mission also concluded that “there is sufficient information to warrant the investigation and prosecution of senior officials in the Tatmadaw chain of command, so that a competent court can determine their liability for genocide in relation to the situation in Rakhine State”.
  2. The Mission found a pervasive culture of impunity at the domestic level. For that reason, it concluded that the impetus for accountability must come from the international community and it made concrete recommendations to that end. The Mission named senior generals of the Tatmadaw who should be investigated and prosecuted for genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. Against the backdrop of the gravity of its findings, the Mission recommended that “no business enterprise active in Myanmar or trading with or investing in businesses in Myanmar should enter into an economic or financial relationship with the security forces of Myanmar, in particular the Tatmadaw, or any enterprise owned or controlled by them or their individual members, until and unless they are re-structured and transformed as recommended by the Mission”. The ability of the Tatmadaw to draw upon alternative sources of revenue, outside the official military budget, contributes towards it operating without civilian oversight. This recommendation from the Mission’s 2018 Report sought to ensure the Tatmadaw’s financial isolation, both to deter continued and future violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law and to promote accountability for those committed in the past, as documented by the Mission. The recommended economic isolation was also intended to encourage the transformation of the Tatmadaw that the Mission saw as essential for human rights compliance in Myanmar.
  3. The Mission is issuing this report on the Tatmadaw’s economic interests to assist the Government of Myanmar, United Nations Security Council, Member States, relevant regional and international inter-governmental organizations, investors and businesses, international financial institutions, and the United Nations, its funds, programmes and agencies, in implementing these recommendations.
  4. The outsize power of the Tatmadaw has affected Myanmar’s transition from full direct military dictatorship following the November 2010 and subsequent November 2015 elections. The National League for Democracy, led by Aung San Suu Kyi, won the 2015 election and took over the civilian side of the Government in March 2016. However, as prescribed by the 2008 constitution, the Tatmadaw is an autonomous institution free from any civilian control or oversight. It controls the ministries of defence, home affairs and border affairs, whose ministers are serving military officers selected by the Commander-in-Chief. It retains 25 per cent of the seats in the legislature, giving it the power to veto any constitutional change.

Download full report here.

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