Credit: ETOs Watch

Trans-border investment monitoring group calls on Govt to suspend investment in Myanmar

Other financial institutions are also asked to adhere to standards of practices that respect human rights, as the coup in Myanmar has escalated into a bloodshed

The group under the Extraterritorial Obligation Watch Coalition (Thailand) or ETOs Watch has submitted separate letters to the government as well as concerned financial and economic development agencies including the Bank of Thailand, urging them to either suspend investment or financial assistance or ensure adherence of standards of practices in regard to human rights protection to prevent abuses by the Myanmar Army, which has overthrown the democratically elected government.

Teerachai Sanjaroenkijthaworn, a coordinator of the group, said it’s been already two months that the Myanmar Army seized power from the elected government of Myanmar, and in the wake of the power seizure, arrests and detentions have been made against a wide range of Burmese citizens, including politicians, the media, civil society organizations, and members of the public after they stepped out and joined the civil disobedience movement all over the country.

The confrontations and clashes have led to a number of killings of innocent people, which amount to a gross human rights violation, the group said.

As of March 25, over 2,981 people have reportedly been arrested, while more than 320 people dead. The apparently worsening situation has prompted international community to condemn the army and impose economic and investment sanctions against the army.

Thailand is a major trade partner of Myanmar with the 6th rank in terms of the value of FDI or foreign direct investment, and the 3rd in terms of the value of investment in the Special Economic zones, according to Myanmar’s Directorate of Investment and Company Administration (DICA), and the SEZ regulation, respectively.

“Despite the military coup, the Thai government and some Thai companies reportedly continue to push through their projects with no consideration of the political situation and human rights violation domestically. This implies in contrary to the genuine calls by Burmese people for help from foreign investors by refraining from investing and collaborating with the Myanmar Army,” said Mr. Teerachai.

Mr. Teerachai said such the implicit acts by the Thai government and investors could breach the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGP), to which Thailand has adopted.

The UNGP principles have in fact been integrated into the National Action Plan on Business and Human Rights (NAP) adopted since late 2019, Mr. Teerachai noted.

Therefore, the group has called on the Thai government as well as concerned agencies to act in accordance to human rights principles.

It calls on the Thai government to suspend or refrain from giving financial assistance and intergovernmental investment to Myanmar until the situation has returned to normal and a democratically elected government is restored.

The Bank of Thailand, the Securities and Exchange Commission, and the State Enterprise Policy Office should ensure that financial or investment institutions under their oversights adhere to good business practice based on human rights as the UNGP has been pledged by them, while 15 Thai financial institutions have signed the Responsible Lending Guideline by the Thai Bankers.

This, the group pointed, can help prevent the bankrolling and investment by Thai companies in projects involving the Army, which is violating human rights of the people of Myanmar.

The Neighbouring Countries Economic Development Cooperation Agency (Public Organization) and the Department of International Economic Affairs under the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, meanwhile, should suspend financial and technical assistance to projects there, particularly provisions of loans for the development of the two-lane road Link at Phu Nam Ron checkpoint, the Thailand-Myanmar border, Kanchanaburi to the Dawei Special Economic Zone in Myanmar. This is worth Bt 4.5 billion, and is under the construction.

Last but not least, human rights organisations here including the National Human Rights Commission of Thailand (NHRCT) and the Rights and Liberties Protection Department under the Ministry of Justice should formally press for private companies and state enterprises to regularly adhere to the UNGP and recommendations under the National Action Plan on Business and Human Rights (NAP) (2019-2023).

The Thai government should actually declare its stance to stand by a democratically elected government and should not recognize the coup makers by the Myanmar Army as a legitimate administration, said the group.

“We hope these agencies to place an importance on the above demands to set a standard and a stance to promote human rights in business operations by Thailand and to demonstrate sincere support of the Thai government and concerned agencies to the promotion of democracy in Myanmar,” said the group, while demanding the responses from the agencies within 15 days.