Burma Campaign UK today welcomed notification from the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) that it is bringing in new rules to prevent the Burmese military benefitting from investment in Burma by CDC Group, the UK’s development finance institution.
Burma Campaign UK has been lobbying for stricter policies since 2017, when Irrawaddy Green Towers, a company which received funding from CDC Group and many other development finance organisations, started to work for the military-owned Mytel mobile phone network. In 2018 the International Development Committee of the British Parliament also raised concerns.
Nigel Adams MP, the Minister responsible for Burma within the FCDO, responding to a letter from Burma Campaign UK, stated, “…we have asked CDC to strengthen its due diligence and the due diligence work of the companies that they invest in, in order to work to exclude military-owned companies from the supply chains and customer lists of those companies.”
When CDC Group was under the control of DFID, DFID resisted our requests for stricter policies regarding military companies, claiming existing rules were sufficient. With CDC Group planning a big expansion in Burma, and with CDC Group now under the FCDO, Burma Campaign UK again requested new rules regarding military companies. In contrast to DFID, the FCDO responded positively.
FCDO Minister Nigel Adams further stated:
“I want to assure you that we remain committed to working to ensure that UK taxpayer money does not go to the military, either directly or indirectly. We will continue to strengthen our enhanced private sector due diligence regime and our efforts with partners to prevent UK money being used to purchase goods and services from military owned companies, whilst continuing to support investment to benefit the people of Myanmar.”
“These new policies to prevent the Burmese military benefitting from UK investment aid are very good news,” said Mark Farmaner, Director of Burma Campaign UK. “We are pleased to see the British government take the lead internationally in steps to stop international aid reaching the Burmese military. It is time the EU, USA and other countries did the same.”
In addition to the new rules on CDC Group investment, the British government has also introduced rules to stop recipients of UK aid using that aid to buy goods and services from the military, and ensured military companies were removed from a Burmese government trade promotion website which has been funded by UK aid. The British Embassy in Burma also has a policy not to source goods and services from military companies.
“The British government has taken positive action to prevent UK investment aid benefitting the military, and now we would like them to go one step further and introduce targeted sanctions to also prevent British companies doing business with the military,” said Mark Farmaner.