UN human rights expert calls for firm international action to stop abuses in Myanmar

The war in Myanmar started after the military seized power in a coup in February 2021 and since then, it has left a bloody toll with over 5,000 killed, 20,000 political prisoners, and nearly 3 million displaced

June 27, 2024 by Peoples Dispatch
The military junta in Myanmar arrested most elected leaders after seizing power, including former PM Aung San Suu Kyi. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

United Nations special rapporteur for human rights in Myanmar Thomas Andrews published a new report on Wednesday, June 26 claiming that several foreign banks are helping the military junta in Myanmar to acquire weapons and military supplies which are ultimately used to brutalize people and to commit war crimes.

The report called “Banking on Death Trade: How Banks and Governments Enable the Military Junta in Myanmar” underlined that international banks have a responsibility to “avoid facilitating crimes, including war crimes and crimes against humanity.”

It lists 16 banks located in seven different countries with most concentrated in Thailand and Singapore that processed transactions linked to the junta’s military procurements in recent years. In his report Andrews claims that transactions linked with Myanmar’s state bank may be enabling military attacks on civilians.

Banks located in Thailand replaced banks located in Singapore as the largest sources of such transactions last year, with Thailand emerging as the main transition route for the weapons bought by the junta.

Andrews’ report notes that last year institutions in Singapore were the top facilitators of the junta’s weapon procurement. It has seen an over 90% decline in the weapons passing through its institutions and companies. Now banks and companies in Thailand have overtaken all other banks in the region. Thailand has become the main facilitator of weapons procurement for the junta. The junta imported weapons worth USD 130 million through Thailand in the financial year ending in March 2024. This was double in comparison to the previous year.

The report called the government in Thailand to show the political will to act to control the flow of weapons to the junta. “With the junta on its heels, it is critical that financial institutions take their human rights obligations seriously and not facilitate the junta’s deadly transactions,” Andrews said.

The UN Human Rights’ report noted that due to pressures created by the human rights agencies, the overall worth of weapon procurement by the junta in Myanmar has gone down from USD 377 million to USD 253 million last year. However, Andrews argues, it is not enough.

“The junta is increasingly isolated” however, it “is circumventing sanctions and other measures by exploiting gaps in sanctions regimes, shifting financial institutions, and taking advantage of the failure of member states to fully coordinate and enforce actions,” Andrews said.

The report asks the members of the UN to take coordinated actions against the military junta in Myanmar to end the war in the country and protect human rights of people.

The war in Myanmar started after the military took power in a coup in February 2021. The military junta has since imprisoned most of the elected authorities including prime minister Aung San Suu Kyi who they charged with corruption. The military has used brutal force to suppress the rebellion against its rule and increasingly has been using airstrikes in civilian areas. The report notes there has been a five fold increase in airstrikes on civilians in the last six months.

Over 5,000 people have been killed and nearly 3 million are displaced due to the war. Myanmar has over 20,000 political prisoners today as per the UN Human Rights report.