YANGON, 22 March 2021: Pandaw Cruises says it has now transferred donations from travellers and associates in the travel industry to Pandaw Clinics in Bagan to buy first aid equipment and supplies to help injured protesters.
Privately travel hospitality firms across Asia express concern and support but very few have taken a public stand, fearing it could hurt business prospects if the fight for democracy fails.
Some international hotel groups have failed to withdraw their brands from the country even after Justice for Myanmar, a covert group that exposes companies linked to the military junta, identified them on shame lists. They mostly ignored requests for comment on their business relations in Myanmar.
In contrast, Pandaw, a popular upscale river cruise operation in Myanmar, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam and India, demonstrates an ethical CSR policy that responds to human rights abuses and supports the call for the reinstatement of the legal democratically appointed government in Myanmar.
Its latest update said “clinics remain open to striking government workers and their families who no longer have access to government medical facilities. Along with the village communities we support, these townspeople are receiving GP consultations and any necessary medications free of charge at any of the seven Pandaw Clinics.”
Visit the donations page on Pandaw’s website https://www.pandawclinics.com/
News reports at the weekend confirmed more than 250 peaceful protesters have died on the streets of major towns across the county as the army and police opened fire on unarmed citizens. Thousands have been arrested.
Indonesia and Malaysia’s foreign ministers have called for an urgent summit of ASEAN nations to discuss the crisis in Myanmar. There are calls for the coup leaders to end the violence against protesters.
Indonesia’s president called for an immediate restoration of democracy, while Malaysia’s Prime Minister, quoted by wire services, said the “use of live ammunition is unacceptable… this deplorable situation must stop.”
Tourism without a conscience
Sources in Yangon confirm the general strike is holding forcing the closure of government departments, public transport, hospitals and banks since late February. Workers in the tourism and hospitality sectors are supporting the action, but the travel industry worldwide has not come out in support of democracy and human rights in Myanmar or condemned the illegal overthrow of a legitimate government. Those who constantly speak out on climate change issues and sustainable tourism objectives remain silent as coup leaders order the shooting of peaceful protesters.
Due to the Covid crisis, international flights remain suspended in Myanmar until the end of April and likely to stay that way for months to come. Hotels are mostly closed, and those accused of having links to the military have in many cases been removed from hotel booking sites such as Booking.com, Hotel.com, Expedia and Agoda. Major international booking sites headquartered in the US could be subject to stricter US Treasury measures regarding online and credit card payments to Myanmar-based hotel companies with proven business links to the coup leaders and their families.
Hotels brand targetted
Shame lists accuse international brands of working with companies that have links to the junta. The Justice for Myanmar list alleges Lotte in South Korea (POSCO) Okura group in Japan and Shangrila Group have business ties with companies in Myanmar that could ultimately benefit the junta financially. Hilton was on the list but claimed in a statement the hotels were currently closed. Pan Pacific was also named, but a check showed the registered name belonged to a garment company with links to the junta and not the international hotel chain.
On 10 March, POSCO, the Korean owner involved in the Lotte project in Yangon, issued a statement in response to allegations made by the Korean Civil Society Organization. POSCO claimed, “the land of the Lotte Hotel in Yangon is owned by the Myanmar government, and because rent payments are made to the Ministry of Treasure in accordance with Article 2 of the Union Budget Law, the military cannot use it arbitrarily.”
Justice for Myanmar countered the statement arguing, “the Myanmar military junta owns the site of the Lotte Hotel that POSCO refers to, and the rent payment goes to the bank account of the Ministry of Defence (MoD). Moreover, the contract signed with the Quartermaster General Office, affiliated with the MoD, is ‘Build-Operate-Transfer’. Thus, ownership of the hotel will be transferred to the military after fifty years, thereby contributing to their profits. This issue has been raised by the UN Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar.”
Big dam project sinks
Meanwhile, Justice For Myanmar reported the suspension of the Myanmar Shweli-3 hydropower dam project, saying in a statement last Friday that “Info Birmanie and Justice For Myanmar welcome the decision by Électricité de France (EDF), the French power giant, to suspend its giant Shweli-3 dam project in Myanmar on human rights grounds in the wake of the brutal and illegal 1 February 2021 military coup.
“EDF, a publicly listed company majority-owned by the French state, leads a consortium to build the Shweli-3 dam along with a 671-megawatt power plant in Shan State, where there is an ongoing civil war, and the Myanmar military has been accused of war crimes and crimes against humanity.
“Justice for Myanmar alleged that “Japan’s Marubeni and Myanmar crony company Ayeyar Hinthar are also investors. The project is reported to cost USD1.51 billion.”
Justice For Myanmar spokesperson Yadanar Maung said: “We welcome EDF’s decision to suspend the Shweli-3 hydropower project, which would have involved business with the military junta, who are criminals and are deliberately killing peaceful protesters in what amounts to crimes against humanity. The Shweli-3 mega-dam should never have got to this stage. It is located in Shan State, an ethnic region where there are systemic grave human rights violations. We call on all companies to end their business with the Myanmar military.”
Info Birmanie coordinator Sophie Brondel added: “EDF’s decision to suspend the Shweli-3 hydropower project is a milestone and indicates the way forward for French companies in Myanmar. We especially call on all companies with ties to the junta to cut those ties. Businesses have a responsibility to stand on the side of democracy and to make sure they are not fuelling the junta. Status quo is not an option.”
Info Birmanie is a French NGO based in Paris which campaigns for human rights in Myanmar and conveys Myanmar civil society’s recommendations to French authorities.
Justice For Myanmar, a group of covert activists campaigning for justice and accountability for the people of Myanmar, and calls for an end to military business and for federal democracy and sustainable peace.