The Maryknoll Sisters and the Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers have both sent letters to some of the world’s largest oil and gas companies who are doing business in Myanmar, as a form of investor advocacy on behalf of the persecuted Rohingya Muslim minority. The following article was published in the November-December 2017 issue of NewsNotes.
The Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers joined a group of investors and stakeholders in sending letters to energy companies doing business in Myanmar on October 23, calling on them to reassess their dealings in light of that country's brutal military crackdown on its ethnic Rohingya minority. (Read the letter at http://bit.ly/2yluer7 .)
Organized by the International Campaign for the Rohingya and Azzad Asset Management, letters signed by 31 investor organizations representing more than $53 billion in assets under management were sent to executives at six oil and gas companies, emphasizing the serious risks of doing business with the Myanmar regime. Commodities make up a majority of Myanmar's exports and are often controlled in whole or part by the armed forces.
Simon Billenness, Executive Director of the International Campaign for the Rohingya said, “Corporations that do business in Burma are supporting a government engaged in ethnic cleansing and possibly even genocide against the Rohingya. The oil companies in Burma must take affirmative steps to avoid complicity in these crimes against humanity.”
In addition to citing the moral obligation to address the humanitarian situation in Myanmar, the letters express concern about the potential risks to investments in the country as well as harm to corporate reputations stemming from doing business with a regime engaged in what the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights has characterized as "a textbook case of ethnic cleansing."
The letter to oil companies states in part:
"We believe that [your] operations and investment in Myanmar and relationships with both the government and the state-owned Myanma Oil and Gas Enterprise creates a special obligation for [your company] to both express its concern over recent events and to reassess its relationship with the government in light of the Burmese government’s recent military actions against Rohingya communities. We cannot maintain 'business as usual' in a country where allegations of crimes against humanity and genocide persist."
Companies receiving the letter were China National Offshore Oil Corporation, Daewoo, PetroChina, Petronas, Total, and Woodside Petroleum.
In August, the Maryknoll Sisters were part of an investor coalition representing more than $30 billion in assets that sent a similar letter to Chevron Corp., which also operates in Myanmar. (Read the letter at http://bit.ly/2zp07PJ )
For decades, the Rohingya ethnic minority in Myanmar have been subject to a government-sanctioned campaign of forced relocation, violence, and persecution. In 2012, Burmese military forces moved more than 120,000 Rohingya from their homes into detention camps. Human rights observers report that the Myanmar military has carried out campaigns of mass rape and killing of Rohingya civilians, including children.
The recent Burmese army crackdown on the Rohingya has caused an estimated 500,000 Rohingya refugees to flee to neighboring Bangladesh, triggering a humanitarian and refugee crisis. Read the letter 125 faith leaders sent to Congress in response in September at http://bit.ly/2imkvpR.§
Faith in action:
- The Elijah Interfaith Institute in Australia offers a prayer for the Rohingya. May our prayer stir us to action for justice and humanity.
- Tell Congress to end U.S. military engagement with Myanmar. A provision in the U.S. Senate’s current draft of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) would increase U.S. military engagement with Myanmar. Urge your members of Congress to cosponsor a bipartisan amendment (SA 607) to strike this language and to suspend all U.S. financial aid to Myanmar’s military. The UK government suspended its financial aid to Myanmar’s military on September 19. Tell Congress that the United States should do the same.
- Follow the plight of the Rohingya people who have been forced to flee to Bangladesh and join in advocacy for respect for their rights wherever they reside, at the International Campaign for the Rohingya .
Photo: Rohingya Muslims, Myanmar, 2014, by European Commission DG ECHO/Flickr