Infy, Adani draw flak over ties with Myanmar Army firms

Infosys, Adani, others face flak for maintaining ties with Myanmar military-controlled companies

Justice for Myanmar also called for sanctions against Myawaddy Bank and Adani Ports and SEZ

Protesters take part in a rally demanding the preservation of democracy in Thailand and neighbouring Myanmar, in Bangkok on February 10, 2021. Credit: AFP Photo

Bengaluru-based Infosys is among the Indian companies being criticised for continuing business ties with companies controlled by Myanmar’s military after the military overthrew the country’s de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi in a coup.

A UN Fact-Finding Mission in 2019 identified state-owned enterprises of China, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, India, Russia and Ukraine involved in major arms or arms-related deals with Myanmar. The mission’s report also named Infosys, Adani Group as companies that have or have had contractual and commercial ties with the Tatmadaw (Myanmar’s military).

The report also found state-owned enterprises Bharat Dynamics Limited and Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) to have transferred conventional arms and related items to the military.

At the time of publishing, HAL and Bharat Dynamics Limited did not elicit a response.

Also read — Massive protests decry Myanmar junta despite internet disruptions, social media blackout

Infosys provides software services to Myanmar’s Myawaddy Bank, which is owned by Myanmar Economic Holdings Limited (MEHL), a principal conglomerate of the Tatmadaw that is owned and influenced by General Min Aung Hlaing and other senior military leaders. The conglomerate is implicated in war crimes, crimes against humanity and the Rohingya genocide.

EdgeVerve Systems, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Infosys established a relationship with the bank in May 2018, just a few months after the military put up an offensive against the Rohingya population in Rakhine state.

Burma Campaign UK, a pro-democracy organisation based in the UK, placed Infosys, the Adani Group, HAL and other companies on a "dirty list", a list of businesses around the world that conduct business with the military in Myanmar. The list includes multinational companies involved in projects where human rights violations and environmental destruction have been observed.

Infosys told DH that EdgeVerve Systems began its relationship with Myawaddy Bank as a response to international calls to help Myanmar integrate with the global economy after the US lifted sanctions against the bank in 2016. They also said, “As a global organisation, we are committed to supporting human rights around the world. Our software solutions bring innovation and economic development that can alleviate poverty and improve the lives of people. We are currently reviewing the international community’s response, especially policy developments led by the United Nations, and shall act in accordance with the international guidelines.”  

Also read — Exercise caution in response to Myanmar coup: India tells United States

Justice for Myanmar (JFM) is a campaign that investigates business networks that "fund oppression" in Myanmar. The campaign aims to build pressure on businesses and investors around the world to divest from businesses and organisations controlled by the Tatmadaw.

JFM also called for sanctions against Myawaddy Bank and Adani Port. "In addition to Infosys, we are deeply concerned about Adani Ports and SEZ, which is building a commercial port under a Build-Operate-Transfer (BOT) contract with Myanmar military-owned conglomerate Myanmar Economic Corporation," the organisation told DH

"The UN Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar listed Adani’s role in financially supporting the Myanmar military in their 2019 report and called on them and other businesses to cut ties with the military. But Adani Ports has failed to take action. As a significant business partner of the Myanmar military, Justice For Myanmar has called for targeted sanctions against Adani Ports and SEZ until they cut all ties with the Myanmar military,” the organisation added.

“We are watching the situation in Myanmar carefully and will engage with the relevant authorities and stakeholders to seek their advice before deciding how to manage this project into the future,” a spokesperson for Adani Ports and SEZ told DH.

JFM said that the organisation had advocated for a global arms embargo, saying that India had been selling arms to Myanmar through Bharat Dynamics, Bharat Electronics and Hindustan Shipyard Limited. JFM added, "The Myanmar military uses arms against the people and to maintain their brutal and illegitimate rule, spending funds from the state budget that is not subject to the Auditor General or parliamentary scrutiny." 

"Justice For Myanmar calls on all Indian businesses to cut ties with the Myanmar military. Stand with the people, not the brutal and corrupt military generals," JFM said.

Meanwhile, US President Joe Biden late Wednesday night said he had approved an executive order “enabling us to immediately sanction the military leaders who directed the coup, their business interests, as well as close family members.” However several specifics of the sanctions are not known yet.

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