照片: 忍者, CC BY-SA 4.0, 通过维基共享资源

The Myanmar military’s political power is tied in part to its web of private enterprises across the energy, 矿业, 银行业, 电信等行业. These military-owned companies have hindered development and are the clearest target for foreign governments and companies as they move to support Myanmar’s growing resistance.


After the Myanmar military seized power in a coup on February 1, the response within the country was nearly immediate: vehement popular opposition, demanding that the generals return power to the civilian government. As Kyaw Zwa Moe of 伊洛瓦底 指出, these are the same demands that Myanmar’s populace has made for decades in opposition to dictatorship: “The people are asking for nothing more than what was stolen from them.”

As the international community reacts to the coup, this issue of the military’s theft from the populace brings up a key question: what will foreign governments and corporations do as pressure mounts to cut economic ties to the Myanmar military?

Myanmar military companies have long extracted wealth from Myanmar’s resources, land and citizens. Coup leader Senior General Min Aung Hlaing and a deep cadre of military leaders have held on to their power through Myanmar’s democratic transition in part through military-owned companies. The Myanmar military owns 过度 100 firms across the energy, 矿业, 银行业, 运输, food and beverage, 旅游, real estate and other industries.

These firms present the most effective openings for foreign companies and governments to pressure the military—not through broad sanctions or total withdrawal. Though US President Joe Biden has 公布 sanctions against eight people involved in the coup and three jade and gem companies, he did not target the bulk of the military’s private enterprises.

The influence of foreign investors has also increased dramatically since Myanmar’s last military government. 外来投资 peaked 在 2015 at US$9.5 billion, 周围 10 times what it was before 2009. Much of this is in ventures linked to the military.

The primary reputational risks for foreign investors are ties to these firms, not operating a business in Myanmar ipso facto. 由于 金融时报 editorial board 把它, “exiting an ethical, normal business will only compound the damage done from the turmoil that accompanies the coup.”

Military-affiliated firms also hinder Myanmar’s economic development, as they receive preferential treatment and lucrative deals, allowing them to beat out their “clean” competitors—again, more theft. As it has for decades, this requires a response from anyone invested in Myanmar, financially or strategically.

照片: 忍者, CC BY-SA 4.0, 通过维基共享资源

Civil disobedience inside Myanmar points to the role of military firms

The resistance inside Myanmar began with residents of Yangon and other cities banging pots and pans at 8 pm every evening. A civil disobedience campaign quickly came together, with health workers at government hospitals and clinics striking nationwide while also establishing their own mechanisms to give people access to healthcare.

Students and teachers soon joined, followed by 公务员 from the health, 教育, 投资, social welfare and construction ministries. 不久, tens of thousands of people began the now ongoing protests in the streets.

The civil disobedience movement could have a major impact, putting intense pressure on the generals without exposing participants to the same risks as physically protesting in public. Any international action should be in line with this movement.

It also presents a major risk to the military government as, in addition to health workers, the volunteer groups that are central to Myanmar’s COVID-19 response have 发信号 they will no longer work. The military government’s handling of the pandemic will be critical in how the next few months progress.

But the civil disobedience campaign has also grown to target the military’s lucrative web of economic enterprises. Engineers at the military-owned telecom firms MyTel and VCM have joined the strike, as have thousands of workers at copper mines in Sagaing Region run by Chinese firms and military-owned Myanmar Economic Holdings Limited (面粉).

MEHL and Myanmar Economic Corporation (MEC), the military’s other conglomerate, control a large list of subsidiaries. These are the private sector ventures directly owned by the military. In addition, the families of Min Aung Hlaing and other generals control their own set of corporate interests. Civil society group Justice for Myanmar has drawn up a working 名单 that provides a starting point for following the money.

These revenue streams enrich the generals and maintain the system of patronage and corruption that long predates Myanmar’s democratic transition—again, this theft is decades old. These firms also fund military operations and, according to the UN Fact-Finding Mission in 2019 总结, provides financial support for genocide and war crimes.

Since the coup, Myanmar’s citizens have targeted military firms for boycott. The Myanmar Times 报告 that sales of products produced by military-linked companies have dropped, affecting brands including Myanmar Beer, MyTel SIM cards, Ruby Cigarettes and multiple bus companies. Some shop owners say they have stopped carrying these products because sales have plummeted.

照片: Taisyo, CC BY-SA 3.0, 通过维基共享资源

Foreign investors begin to cut ties to Myanmar military

The coup will have devastating consequences for Myanmar’s economy, 如 投资人 review their commitments and billions of dollars are at risk. Poverty rates were already rising rapidly due to the pandemic and blanket sanctions or a total exit by all foreign firms will only make matters worse. 对于外国投资者和政府而言,与军方建立联系并对其进行制裁是最有效和战略性的步骤.

这些行动的影响将取决于缅甸将军是否更加关注自己的财富或, 就像缅甸历史学家Thant Myint-U一样 建议, 政治力量. 两者交织在一起: Min Aung Hlaing和他的家人有很多损失, 财务上, 如果他的政治权力下降或曾经对自己的行为负责.

现在,一些外国公司已切断与缅甸军方的联系. 日本的麒麟啤酒有 结束了 经过数年的努力,他们与MEHL在缅甸啤酒厂和曼德勒啤酒厂的合作伙伴关系 批评, 虽然现在啤酒集团 计划继续在该国销售啤酒.

新加坡商人林加林, 游戏公司Razer负责人, 公布 that he is pulling out of his one-third share of RMH Singapore Pte Ltd, which operates Myanmar’s Virginia Tobacco Company in partnership with MEHL. He made the announcement following pressure from an online petition with less than a thousand signatures.

But international telecom firms Oredoo and Telenor, to name a couple, 继续 to cooperate with the Myanmar military and profit from these partnerships.

As foreign corporations and governments shape their policies and look for ways to press the new military regime, the network of military-owned companies presents an obvious target, as it has for decades. Cutting ties with military firms and sanctioning them will also help loosen the military’s grip on Myanmar’s economy and foster more sustainable, less morally compromised development.

如Thant Myint-U 把它, 民主过渡的明显成功意味着“没有人认为他们的缅甸政策需要做很多功课”,但是随着过渡的破裂, “现在可能是时候做很多作业了。”


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