absdfUSCB Report Card: US Companies Investing in Burma

June 5, 2014 - US Campaign for Burma released the first edition of its Report Card of US Companies Investing in Burma. The Report Card analyzes whether US companies are transparently complying with the US State Department’s Responsible Investment Reporting Requirements, conducting due diligence, and responsibly managing their investments on the ground.

US Campaign for Burma finds that some US companies, like Capital Group Companies, Crowley Marine Services, and Hercules Offshore, are failing to exhibit responsible practices. Failure to transparently conduct due diligence and disclose basic information undermines the US policy goal to use the Reporting Requirements as a tool to empower civil society and promote investments that reinforce political and economic reform. Other companies, like Coca-Cola, have demonstrated their commitment to modeling business transparency in their Burma investments, though even they have room for improvement.

Click here to read the Report Card (pdf).

U.S. Investment

Burma has had a long and painful history of unscrupulous military and government involvement in its economy. Corruption is rampant - Transparency International ranks Burma 172 out of 176 countries in its 2012 Corruption Perception Index, and Heritage ranks Burma 172 out of 177 countries in its 2013 Index of Economic Freedom. For years, military leaders and their cronies have essentially controlled the entire economy. The most attractive sectors for investment (e.g. natural resources) overlap with Burma's ethnic regions and have been directly linked to abuses against ethnic people. Investment and development projects have destroyed local environments, displaced hundreds of thousands of people, and fueled conflict.

The investment climate in Burma thus demands excessive caution and discretion from foreign actors. But over the past year, the Obama Administration has dramatically shifted US-Burma policy away from a measured action-for-action policy to an “encouraging reformers”/concessions-oriented approach. This decision abandoned the bipartisan US-Burma policy of more than two decades cemented in US laws mandating that sanctions remain in place until the Burmese government meets certain conditions that receive broad support from Burma's democratic opposition, ethnic minorities, and human rights community. While Burma has not met even one of those conditions, the US Administration has lifted most major economic sanctions against Burma in response to the government’s modest reforms geared toward establishing a market-based economy.

Unfortunately, government-sponsored human rights abuses, military attacks, and land grabs have proliferated in the face of potential investment & development opportunities, demonstrating that economic engagement has helped embolden actors in the Burmese government. Human rights abuses are no longer disciplined financially by means of sanctions, and thus no longer as financially problematic for the Burmese government. The US Administration should tie its economic concessions to conditions, including curbing the anti-Muslim violence, pursuing justice and accountability, reforming land laws, allowing humanitarian aid to reach IDPs, and halting military assaults against ethnic groups. Otherwise, the US is putting hundreds of thousands of people at risk of losing their land and livelihoods in exchange for financial profit.

US Campaign for Burma is committed to engaging our government, corporate, civil society, and grassroots partners to minimize the impact of foreign investment on Burma's people, human rights situation, and reform process.

· U.S. Treasury: Burma Sanctions 

absdfSDN List

The US Treasury's SDN list is a sanctions tool that is used to ensure that bad actors do not benefit from US investment in Burma, the ban on which was lifted in July 2012. The US Administration has a clear, objective set of criteria for adding persons to the SDN list, outlined in Executive Order 13619.

Unfortunately, the SDN list in its current form is long past its expiration date and allows the easing of US sanctions to benefit persons obstructing the peace process, threatening Burma’s security and stability, and commissioning human rights abuses – clear threats to Burma’s democratization process and the State Department’s pledge to help US companies avoid corrupt alliances. Over the past year, for political reasons, the US Administration has refused to add many of Burma’s top military leaders and human rights abusers to the SDN list and waived sanctions on four of Burma’s regime-affiliated banks via General License No. 19 despite their continuous presence on the SDN list.

Learn more about our advocacy efforts urging the US Administration to exercise due diligence in updating the SDN list & positing a set of unambiguous criteria that actors must meet before they are eligible for removal from the list.

• Profiles of 4 Top Burmese Cronies:
        • Tay Za
        • Zaw Zaw
        • Steven Law
        • Htay Myint
• Learn more about the SDN List through our interactive Prezi
Joint Letter Urging US Administration to Update the SDN List
, November 5, 2013, Signed by 37 organizations
Who's Who of the SDN List
 Who's Who of the SDN List (Narcotics Traffickers Edition)


U.S. Business in Burma             

The US Administration re-authorized investment and financial transactions with Burma with the issuance of General Licenses No. 16 and 17 in July 2012, giving US businesses the go-ahead to operate in Burma. In May 2013, with heavy input from USCB and the NGO community, the US State Department released the Reporting Requirements for Responsible Investment in Burma. These Requirements aim to manage the impacts of US investment, safeguard human rights, and provide the transparency that civil society groups need in order to promote responsible investment. US businesses must submit reports to the State Department on all investments over $500,000 and investments with the military regime's Myanma Oil and Gas Enterprise (MOGE). Businesses must publicly report on human rights, workers rights, anti-corruption, and environmental policies and procedures, arrangements with security service providers, property acquisition, and payments made to government or non-state group entities claiming to have governmental authority over the submitter’s investment activities in Burma. Companies must also submit information about military communications and risk prevention and mitigation with regard to human rights, etc. in either the public or a separate private report.

These Reporting Requirements are a significant step toward ensuring transparency in US business dealings with Burma, but in the first reports submitted in July 2013, there were significant informational gaps by companies interpreting Requirement language to avoid making full disclosures. US Campaign for Burma is actively monitoring US companies investing in Burma and the quality of reports they submit.

              Report Card of US Companies Investing in Burma 
             Joint Letter to Obama Addressing Sub-standard Reporting, August 2013

             Joint Comments on the Draft Reporting Requirements:
                      1st Public Comment Period: Comment Submitted October 2012
                      2nd Public Comment Period: Comment Submitted March 2013 
             2013 Reporting Requirements for Responsible Investment in Burma
             Public Reports Submitted by US Companies
             Letter urging Capital Group Companies to comply with Burma Reporting Requirements  
             Reporting Requirement FAQs

More Significant US Investment Documents:


nargisInternational Investment

The international community has responded to Burma’s recent modest reforms by reinstating aid and development programs and lifting most major sanctions to encourage private investment. In addition to bilateral donors, the World Bank, International Monetary Fund (IMF), International Finance Corporation (IFC), and Asian Development Bank (ADB) have also reengaged – or in the case of the IMF, reupped – with Burma. Such engagement has led to foreign investment in Burma increasing fivefold over the 2012-2013 year but has also resulted in Burmese leaders receiving immunity from the international community from being held accountable for their past and ongoing crimes against humanity and war crimes.

Over the past year, in large part due to the fiscal opportunities made possible by new foreign investment, the Burmese government has stalled its reform process and escalated human rights violations, particularly military attacks against ethnic minorities, arbitrary detentions, and land confiscations. Facing high-pressure opportunities for development, the Burmese government, in cooperation with the military, has ramped up land expropriation, leaving Burma’s most disenfranchised people without their livelihoods or the right to legal recourse.

Fear of confronting Burma’s problems with land rights, political cronyism, and internal conflicts have led international actors to forge ahead with projects that will further deepen the income divide and ignore the need to integrate the rural and ethnic areas with the rest of the economy. In fact, the Asian Development Bank’s own telecommunications project will – by its own admission – result in land confiscation. Rural populations now find themselves pit against powerful foreign investors, whose projects translate into increased military presences and human rights abuses for villagers.

• List of Foreign Companies Investing in Burma
• Civil Society Letter to World Bank on Telecom Sector Reform Project

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