Australia’s trade with Myanmar military junta growing, despite sanctions

October 28, 2023
Slide courtesy of Myanmar Campaign Network

Human rights activists told a forum on October 24 that despite international sanctions against the coup regime in Myanmar/Burma, Australia has increased some of its imports from the regime.

Mon Zin, a founding member of the Global Myanmar Spring Revolution, told the Green Left and Socialist Alliance forum that timber and wood imports increased between 2020–21.

“Imports of wood and timber from Myanmar which rose from $2 million to $2.5 million, helps fund the junta’s war against the people of Myanmar,” Zin said. “There has been a surge in timber exports, mostly from illegal logging, shipped out through India and China.”

Tasneem Roc, campaign manager for the Myanmar Campaign Network (MCN) said Australia was lagging behind other Western countries in its sanctions against the regime. MCN is an alliance of human rights organisations, international aid groups, Myanmar diaspora organisations, trade unions and faith-based organisations.

“The United States, United Kingdom, European Union and Canada sanction, between them, 179 individuals and 152 entities associated with the military coup regime. Australia only sanctions 21 individuals and two entities (with 106 subsidiaries).

“We are very far behind what the rest of the world is doing. Australia only implements 6% of the sanctions that are applied internationally against the regime,” said Roc.

MCN is calling for stronger and more coordinated sanctions because the Myanmar junta relies on foreign income from its natural resources exports to buy the jets and the helicopter gunships it is using against the people of Myanmar.

In 2021, a freedom of information search by Publish What You Pay found that Australia’s sovereign wealth fund Future Fund had investments in companies mining and exporting gas from Myanmar/Burma.

“Australia’s Future Fund has investments in companies exploiting and exporting gas from Myanmar,” Roc said.

The MCN is calling on the Australian government to sanction Myanmar state-owned enterprises dealing in oil and gas, mining, gems and timber; the aviation fuel supply chain; the banking sector; arms manufacture and procurement; and high-ranking Myanmar military officials.

“Apart from the surge in illegal logging, which is contributing to deforestation, there has also been a surge in rare earth mining which is highly polluting to land and waterways,” Roc said.

Since the coup, there has also been a rise in human trafficking, drug production and scam centres.

Zin said the Future Fund directors had pressured MPs to enact laws to make it harder for Myanmar rights campaigners to use freedom of information laws to find out about their investments. She said those laws had, fortunately, been stopped for now.

[Find out more about the campaign in solidarity with the people’s resistance by emailing MCN, or via Myanmar Campaign Network on Facebook, Instagram or X.]

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