Military Coup: India’s Adani Ports Lands In Fresh Controversy Over Myanmar Project — Reports

Norway’s largest pension fund KLP will divest from the Adani Ports and Special Economic Zone Limited in Myanmar citing the Indian company’s links with the Myanmar military, according to reports.

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The Southeast Asian nation has been ruled by the military junta since the February 1 coup, sparking a nationwide civil disobedience movement and armed resistance by civilians and ethnic rebels. More than 800 people have been killed so far by the armed forces, called Tatmadaw in Myanmar.

Indian business tycoon Gautam Adani-owned Adani Ports has been facing global scrutiny over its project to build a container terminal in Yangon on land leased from military-owned conglomerate Myanmar Economic Corporation (MEC).

News agency Reuters said KLP is pulling out from Adani Ports because the container terminal is being built on land owned by the Myanmar military and there is an “imminent danger” the armed forces could use the port to import weapons and equipment, or as a naval base.

“Adani’s operations in Myanmar and its business partnership with that country’s armed forces constitute an unacceptable risk of contributing to the violation of KLP’s guidelines for responsible investment,” KLP said in a statement to Reuters.

“In this way, the port could be used by the army to continue its violations of human rights,” KLP said.

KLP is believed to have invested US$1.05 million in Adani Ports, the report said.

The move has been hailed by leaders of Myanmar’s ousted government.

U Aung Myo Min, minister for human rights in the National Unity Government, said KLP’s decision shows that global businesses, in addition to foreign governments, are paying heed to pro-democracy protestors, who have called for a halt to economic cooperation with the military, which has been committing atrocities against its own citizens, The Irrawaddy, a leading digital publication in Myanmar, reported.

Adani Ports and Special Economic Zone Limited. (Image: Adani Group)

The western nations, including the US, have already imposed sanctions on junta leaders and their businesses and frozen their foreign assets.

Adani Ports stated in May it could abandon the Myanmar project if it was found to be in violation of sanctions imposed by the US, according to Reuters.

Reiterating this stand, the company said on June 23, “The Company is in discussion with its US-based counsels to ensure that the Company is in compliance with the OFAC [Office of Foreign Assets Control] sanctions programs. In a scenario wherein Myanmar is classified as a sanctioned country under the OFAC or if OFAC opines that we are in violation of the current sanctions, the company has plans to abandon the project and will write-down its investments in the project in full”.

Media Glare

In March, Australian media outlet ABC News had published a sensational report alleging that Adani Group was paying up to $52 million to a junta-controlled company that is facing US sanctions over human rights violations.

The ABC story was based on leaked documents from human rights lawyers and activists that showed Adani Group’s business dealings linked to a proposed container depot in Yangon. It also cited a video and photos showing the top leadership of Adani Ports meeting with Myanmar’s army chief in 2019.

On March 31, Adani Ports and Logistics issued a statement claiming that media reports misrepresented the Adani Group’s investments in Myanmar.

“Much like our global peers, we are watching the situation in Myanmar carefully and will engage with the relevant authorities and stakeholders to seek their advice on the way forward. As a responsible corporate our intention is to create investment-friendly opportunities in Myanmar through trade and commerce which will have a multiplier effect on job creation for the local communities and contribute towards the nation’s economic and social development goals.”

“We condemn violations of the fundamental rights of all people and would continue to work with our partners and stakeholders, including business leaders, government and non-government organizations, to foster a business environment that respects human rights,” the statement read.

The Adani Group said it is “working with independent think tanks to ensure mitigation of human rights violations risks and building equal opportunity platform through sustainable value creations powered by critical port infrastructure”.