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UN expert claims Thailand is becoming the preferred banking destination for Myanmar junta amid escalating military attacks

International Banks Enabling Myanmar Military Junta’s Deadly Assault: UN-backed Report

International banks are playing a significant role in fueling the Myanmar military junta’s deadly assault on its people, a new United Nations-backed report has revealed. According to the report, Thai banks have become the main source through which the Myanmar military is purchasing weapons and military supplies, including parts for helicopter gunships, to support its ongoing civil war.

Since seizing power in a coup in February 2021, the military junta has been engaged in a brutal campaign against ethnic armed groups and people’s resistance forces across Myanmar. The junta has faced significant losses of territory and troops in recent months, leading to increased airstrikes and attacks against civilians and civilian infrastructure, displacing over 3 million people.

The report, titled “Banking on the Death Trade: How Banks and Governments Enable the Military Junta in Myanmar,” identified 16 banks in seven countries that have processed transactions linked to the military’s procurement, totaling $253 million between April 2023 and March 2024. The report also highlighted the role of international banks in facilitating the junta’s access to financial services needed to carry out systematic human rights violations.

While Western nations have imposed sanctions on military leaders and state-owned companies, the report emphasized the need for international banks to be vigilant in preventing transactions involving Myanmar’s state-owned entities from being used to purchase weapons or military materials. The report also called for sanctions on networks supplying jet fuel to the junta and the military’s “go-to bank,” Myanma Economic Bank, to help save lives in Myanmar.

The report found that Singapore-based entities were previously a significant source of weapons and military materials for the junta, but following a government investigation, the flow of weapons materials from Singapore to Myanmar dropped by nearly 90%. In contrast, exports from Thai-based entities more than doubled between 2022 and 2023, reaching nearly $130 million last year.

One of the Thai banks identified in the report, Siam Commercial Bank, was found to have played a crucial role in facilitating transactions related to the military, with the value of transactions increasing from just over $5 million in 2022 to more than $100 million in 2023. In response, SCB stated that it complies with anti-money laundering laws and that its transactions with Myanmar are not connected to the arms trade.

The report’s author, UN Special Rapporteur for Human Rights in Myanmar Tom Andrews, welcomed the Thai government’s decision to investigate the findings and expressed hope that positive changes would result, similar to the impact of investigations in Singapore. Andrews emphasized the importance of financial institutions taking their human rights obligations seriously and not facilitating the junta’s deadly transactions.

In conclusion, the report shed light on the critical role of international banks in enabling the Myanmar military junta’s atrocities and called for concerted efforts to hold financial institutions accountable and cut off the junta’s access to resources that fuel its violent campaign against the people of Myanmar.


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