October 31, 2019

Media Release from Burmese Rohingya Organisation UK (BROUK), Burma Campaign UK, and International Campaign for the Rohingya

On the eve of Western Union announcing its 3rd quarter results, Burmese Rohingya Organisation UK (BROUK), Burma Campaign UK, International Campaign for the Rohingya, and 33 other organizations today called on Western Union to end its business relationship with Burma’s military. The Burmese military has been accused by United Nations investigators of being responsible for genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity.

Western Union is in a business relationship with a military-owned bank in Burma, which it uses as one of its agents in the country. Myawaddy Bank is a subsidiary of a giant military business conglomerate called Union of Myanmar Economic Holdings Ltd (UMEHL). Profits from Myawaddy Bank benefit the military.

The United Nations Fact Finding Mission on Myanmar (also known as Burma), set up by the UN Human Rights Council to investigate human rights violations in Burma, has called for sanctions on military-owned companies and for companies not to do business with the military.

To date, Western Union has not responded to approaches by Burma Campaign UK and the International Campaign for the Rohingya regarding its business relationship with the Burmese military.

“Western Union’s business partner in Burma, the Burmese military, has raped thousands of Rohingya women and killed hundreds of Rohingya children. Western Union is funding the military that committed genocide against my people. How can any company claim to be ethical when they help pay for genocide?” stated Tun Khin, President of the Burmese Rohingya Organisation UK (BROUK).

“There are plenty of alternative non-military companies in Burma with which Western Union can partner in Burma,” said Mark Farmaner, Director of Burma Campaign UK. “There is no justification for putting money into the pockets of Burma’s brutal military. There can be no “business as usual” with genocide”

“Western Union CEO Hikmet Ersek is admirable for speaking out for the rights of refugees. However, Western Union has partnered with Burma’s army that forced over 700,000 Rohingya to flee to Bangladesh, creating the world’s largest group of refugees,” stated Simon Billenness, Executive Director of the International Campaign for the Rohingya and Campaign Director of No Business With Genocide. “But by partnering with Burma’s genocidal generals, Western Union puts at risk the reputation of its company and its top executives.”

Open letter by 33 organizations to Western Union CEO Hikmet Ersek is here.


Western Union website (accessed October 2018)

On its website, Western Union calls a Myawaddy Bank branch “MWD Mandalay,” even though the address is that of a Myawaddy Bank Branch.

Myawaddy Bank website (accessed October 2019)

The Myawaddy Bank website states: “Using Western Union at Myawaddy Bank is a straightforward with a guranteed [sic] service.”

Western Union website: profiles of corporate leadership

For More Information:

“Dirty List: Western Union,” Burma Campaign UK

The economic interests of the Myanmar military,” United Nations Independent International Fact-Finding Mission, September 2019

Resetting Myanmar Policy,” Global Witness, September 2019

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