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Global companies leave the office building with ties to the Myanmar military

Several companies renting a site in a luxury office building in Myanmar built on Myanmar military-owned land have moved or are considering their lease, in which McKinsey, Coca-Cola and Reuters.

Last month, campaigning organization Justice for Myanmar (Justice for Myanmar) called on commercial tenants in the Sule Square office and store complex located in Myanmar’s downtown Yangon area to stop supporting cockroaches. Next to the army of this country.

Justice for Myanmar reported: “[The complex] Sule Square has well-known tenants continuing to rent an office in this building, indirectly supporting the military [Myanmar].” The organization identified 18 tenants in the report.

Reuters contacted all of the companies listed in the report. Of the six companies that confirmed they had moved or are considering plans for the office, only one cites the building’s relationship with the Myanmar military. Other companies cite a variety of reasons including business prospects.

Business has collapsed in the Southeast Asian country since the February 1 military coup, which led to widespread protests and strikes across the country. Myanmar’s military has killed hundreds of civilians and arrested thousands in protest crackdowns since the coup.

Opened in 2017 near the historic Sule Temple, the Sule Square building was developed by a Myanmar subsidiary of Hong Kong-listed Shangri-La Asia. The company also manages the building and an adjacent hotel.

According to a fact-finding mission in 2019 set up by the United Nations (UN) to investigate the economic interests, media and human rights organizations of the Myanmar army, this land has been given to the Myanmar army. to rent.

As a basis for its conclusion that the land was owned by the Myanmar military, the UN delegation in its report cited what they call digital records. One of the report’s authors, human rights consultant Chris Sidoti, said the document was archived and was not immediately available.

On Tuesday (May 11), Reuters sent a request to the UN to have access to this document.

In 2017, Shangri-La announced that it had invested $ 125 million in this building project. The company declined to answer questions from Reuters about the owner of the land.

A Myanmar military spokesman did not respond to calls for comment on the matter. Reuters was unable to independently verify details of a land lease.

The Myanmar army was in direct power for almost 50 years after taking power in a coup in 1962. They owned vast lands and controlled corporations that traded in everything from mining to banking. .

Melissa Yeo, director of communications and regional reputation for Southeast Asia at global management consulting firm McKinsey, said that McKinsey & Company has terminated her lease of offices at Sule Square. early 2021, however, she did not give details.

In an emailed statement, Coca-Cola said it would not renew the office lease when the contract ends in mid-June under the pretext of “changing business needs”.

Business influence

Singapore-based private equity firm Emerging Markets Investment Advisors said it had moved out of the Sule Square building after the lease ended in March, while Norwegian fertilizer company Yara also said it was arresting top find alternative office locations.

Of the companies that have confirmed to have moved or are considering moving offices, only Yaga cites the reason that the Myanmar army owns the property of the building.

“We only learned recently that the owner of the rental building [Sule Square] is paying rent to the military [Myanmar],” said Josiane Kremer, Yara’s director of foreign relations.

She did not elaborate on how Yara knew details about the owner of the land.

The state-owned telecommunications company Telenor announced that they had known that the land under the Sule Square building was owned by the Burmese army before they moved, however they chose the site due to factors such as problems. safe.

Telenor did not comment on its future office plans, nor did it elaborate on how they knew the owner of the land.

The World Bank also has an office in the Sule Square building. The bank is currently “assessing the situation in Myanmar, following its internal policies and procedures”. However, they also did not elaborate on their plans.

On the side of the French container shipping company CMA CGM, they are “conducting further investigation” and Canadian real estate broker Colliers International Group Inc confirmed, their business in Myanmar is recognized by a company. franchisee is independently operated and declined to comment further.

Japanese company Sony Corp used to have a representative office in Myanmar, but the office was closed “due to local circumstances” and it currently sells only through distributors.

Several other organizations featured in Justice for Myanmar’s report, including the US Chamber of Commerce in Myanmar and British insurance company Prudential, did not respond to requests for comment or declined to comment.

The University of Reading and Mastercard were named in the Justice for Myanmar report, but they told Reuters they did not rent an office in the Sule Square building. Reuters cannot independently verify that.

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