Yangon (Chindwin): Just two days before the ASEAN meeting, which was scheduled on 26 October, the military junta has made desperate attempts to seek a disguise of normality by holding an in-person meeting with some foreign business groups on 24 October. The meeting was organized by the Union of Myanmar Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry (UMFCCI).
The meeting was said to be chaired by the military-appointed Minister of Investment Aung Naing Oo whose reputation is in tatters at home and abroad and was sanctioned by Western countries, including the U.S.
Among the attendees, the Australia-Myanmar Chamber of Commerce (Aus-Cham) Myanmar was the only entity that had initially spoken out against the junta and claimed that their standpoint on the current situation in Myanmar has been very clear from the beginning, and they were sincere about working for change. “We certainly weren’t signalling that the political and business situation was acceptable and that we were back to business as usual, and no one present was in any doubt about where we stood,” said AustChaM Chair Hughes.
Nonetheless, Australia has not renewed any targeted sanctions upon the military coup leaders, unlike the U.S, Canada, and U.K. Instead, the Australian Government makes clear that imposing further sanctions against the military regime is not in line with their national interest, citing that they had imposed targeted sanctions against the military leaders in 2018 light of the 2007 Rohingya crisis.
The other participants were China Enterprises Chamber of Commerce in Myanmar (CECCM), Myanmar-Hong Kong Chamber of Commerce and Industry (MHKCCI), India-Myanmar Chamber of Commerce (IMCC), Thai Business Association of Myanmar, Korea Chamber of Commerce in Myanmar (KoCham), and Israeli and Malaysian business groups. It is learned that these groups reportedly remained silent over the coup and ensuing crisis while quietly meeting with the junta, which many viewed that these participants are indirectly supporting the military authorities.
The meeting has infuriated the Myanmar protesters and activists. “Foreign chambers joining this meet-and-greet with the military junta are effectively legitimizing an unlawful, terrorist entity. The military junta is courting business to entrench rule and increase revenue to finance its campaign of terror,” said Yadanar Maung, spokesperson for the activist group Justice for Myanmar. “Foreign chambers must stand for human rights and responsible business, but these chambers engaging with SAC are doing the opposite. This also reflects a failure of the government policies of the respective chambers, none of which have imposed targeted sanctions since the military’s illegal coup.” She added.
Tin Tun Naing, the NUG’s Minister of Planning, Finance, and Investment, said that “the SAC is an unlawful body which has brought nothing but pain and hardship to Myanmar, whatever benefits them [the junta] is detrimental to our people,”
“It’s really outrageous and unacceptable that these various chambers of commerce think that offering succour to the junta would be in any way acceptable at this critical time,” said Phil Robertson of the U.S.-based organization Human Rights Watch.
The Military junta is actively still on its mission to crackdown against civilians all over the country as they are struggling to consolidate their grasp of power.