A secretive Myanmar conglomerate with links to international businesses directly bankrolls the country's military.
Amnesty International says its investigations into show Myanmar's military has received dividends of as much as $18bn from the Yangon-based company over the years. Its entire board is made up of senior military officers. The company has sprawling interests across mining, manufacturing and banking, and works with a number of international companies from China, Japan, South Korea and Singapore. The company has sprawling interests across mining, manufacturing and banking, and works with a number of international companies from China, Japan, South Korea and Singapore. Also included are RMH Singapore, a Singaporean fund with a tobacco operation in Myanmar, and Wanbao Mining, a Chinese metal mining company. Two Myanmar companies, Ever Flow River Group Public Co Ltd (EFR), a logistics company, and Kanbawza Group (KBZ), which is involved in mining jade and rubies, were also listed.
MEHL is owned by 381,636 individual shareholders, who are all serving or retired military personnel, and 1,803 "institutional" shareholders, consisting of "regional commands, divisions, battalions, troops, war veteran associations". The total amount of dividend payments made to shareholders during the 20-year period amounted to more than 107 billion Myanmar kyat - about $18bn. MEHL transferred 95 billion kyat ($16bn) of the total to military units, including those that operated in Rakhine State, home to the Rohingya. The military units that operated in Rakhine reportedly owned more than 4.3 million MEHL shares and received payments of more than 1.25 billion kyat ($208m) in just one year between 2010 and 2011.
"The perpetrators of some of the worst human rights violations in Myanmar's recent history are among those who benefit from MEHL's business activities," said Mark Dummett, Amnesty's Head of Business, Security and Human Rights. "These documents provide new evidence of how the Myanmar military benefits from MEHL's vast business empire and make clear that the military and MEHL are inextricably linked."
MEHL shareholder records show the company to be fully owned and controlled by active and retired military personnel. Military units - including combat divisions assigned to Rakhine State, where conflict has deepened in recent years - own about a third of the company, Amnesty said.
Among those who directly benefit from the company is Myanmar's top military commander, General Min Aung Hlaing, Amnesty said. Between 2010 and 2011, he owned 5,000 shares and received an estimated $250,000 in payments. The general has been accused of overseeing the military campaign against the Rohingya, and the United Nations has called for his investigation and prosecution in relation to genocide and war crimes.