Amnesty Report: Businesses supporting Myanmar abuses

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A vehicle passes by in front of a Kanbawza bank branch Thursday, Sept. 10, 2020, in Yangon, Myanmar. The Kanbawza Group, or KBZ, is one of Myanmars largest conglomerates, with businesses in a variety of sectors including construction, finance, manufacturing, agriculture, trading, insurance, aviation and jade and ruby mining and joint ventures with Myanmar Economic Holdings, a huge conglomerate that an Amnesty International report says is supporting military units and individuals involved in human rights abuses. (AP Photo/Thein Zaw)

__The overwhelming control of Myanmar’s economy by the military through some of its biggest companies means its foreign and domestic business partners are likely supporting military units and leaders suspected of human rights abuses, critics say.

A report by Amnesty International released Thursday details some of those links with Myanma Economic Holdings PLC, a huge conglomerate that was set up by the military in 1990.

The human rights group is urging Myanmar's government “to break the link between the armed forces and the economy” and companies that partner with the company, known as MEHL, to cut ties that may be helping to finance such activities, including atrocities against Myanmar’s Muslim Rohingya minority.

MEHL's foreign business partners include South Korean steel maker Posco International, trading company Pan-Pacific and the Inno Group; RMH Singapore Pte, formerly owned by British American Tobacco; China's Wanbao Mining, which jointly operates copper mines in Myanmar; and beverage manufacturer Kirin of Japan.

Some of MEHL's domestic and foreign partners, including Kirin, have said they are investigating the concerns raised by the report. Others have not.

The Amnesty International report, compiled in collaboration with the human rights group Justice for Myanmar, outlines links between key military units and leaders involved in what Myanmar's military has called a clearance campaign in Rakhine state. It was home to more than 700,000 Rohingya who have fled to neighboring Bangladesh and other countries since August 2017.

U.N. investigations have found the army in the Buddhist-majority country has directed massacres and other crimes against the Rohingya. The government has denied accusations that security forces committed mass rapes and killings and burned thousands of homes.

Myanmar’s government is still dominated by the military, who hold key positions despite the country’s transition to quasi-civilian rule beginning in 2011.