NGO Forum on ADB, a network of over 250 Asian CSOs, demands that the Asian Development Bank (ADB) to stop financing all of its projects in military-occupied Myanmar. The network also urges the Bank to assess its lending relationship with Myanmar and immediately freeze all lending obligations, pre-committed loans, and outstanding transactions until the ADB can ensure that all of its dealings with the state do not legitimize military rule and authoritarianism.
In a two-page letter, endorsed by CSOs worldwide, NGO Forum stated that the Asian Development Bank (ADB) had invested USD 3.57 billion in 151 projects as of 31 December 2019. Currently, 35 development projects amounting to USD 4306.30 million are active in which ADB has provided USD 3698.89 million (USD 3638.01 million loan and USD USD 50.78 million as Technical Assistance or Grant) in the sectors of energy, transport, water & other urban infrastructure, and agriculture, natural resources, and rural development. According to the Project Data Sheets (PDS) total of USD 527.27 million has been disbursed to date, while USD 3,171.62 million is yet to disburse.
Hasan Mehedi, chief executive officer of CLEAN (Coastal Livelihood and Environmental Action Network), stated that "by providing the loan and grants the ADB ultimately support an illegal military regime that is already guilty of a crime against humanity, and coup the power from the elected government officials. They also torture citizens who cry for democracy." He also added that "financing this will ultimately inspire other autocratic governments and vested forces to occupy power illegally, ADB could be accused of providing odious loans, and there is a risk of non-payment from Burmese people in the future, the ADB should stop disbursing the funds immediately."
Among the project finances, ADB approved USD 250.00 million as budget support under the COVID-19 Active Response and Expenditure Support (CARES) Program, and USD 125.00 million has been disbursed. Consequently, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has provided USD 350.00 million as budget support on the coup's very day. Now the armed forces are potentially using the same funds to quell democracy in Myanmar.
Lidy Nacpil, the coordinator of the Asian Peoples' Movement on Debt and Development (APMDD), firmly stated that "the illegitimacy of the military junta is affirmed by the widespread citizen's resistance to and rejection of the regime, we stand in solidarity with the people of Myanmar."
Atty. Mai Taqueban, executive director of Legal Rights and Natural Resources Center-Kasama sa Kalikasan/Friends of the Earth Philippines (LRC-KSK/FoE Phils.), echoed the same sentiment, "meaningful development can only be achieved through genuine inclusion and empowerment of all peoples, especially marginalized and vulnerable sectors, "development" support to a system that enables violence against indigenous peoples for one, no matter how well-intentioned, is complicit in the perpetuation of violence against them." she added.
COVID19 ADB recovery loans, the Myanmar loan has a C risk categorization. The lower risk for COVID19 loans stems from the fact that loan components include direct budget support and loans towards MSMEs and the private sector. Civil society groups are concerned that without adequate information disclosure and comprehensive risk assessment preceding loan approval for a military-ruled Myanmar may potentially appropriate funds towards companies and agencies aligned with the current military occupation.
According to Dr. Rene Oroneo, president of Freedom from Debt Coalition (FDC) the Philippines, "It is thus ironic that loans purportedly meant to save the Burmese people from the pandemic and the economic depression are now being transformed into support funds for a military establishment bent on oppressing the Burmese people," incidentally, Dr. Ofreneo was in Myanmar in 2017 and 2018 to help the tripartite industrial relations actors in Myanmar develop rules to foster industrial democracy. These rules are now being muzzled under a military regime.
"The World Bank and IFC have taken the FFM's findings on corporate complicity into account in their operations and procurement policies. We urgently appeal that the ADB and other banks would do the same. These funds will be used under the administrative control of the coup-d'etat Military, which will further oppress the affected communities on the ground," says Rayyan Hassan, executive director of NGO Forum on ADB.
ADB should assess its lending relationship with Myanmar and ensure that its approved loans do not legitimize military rule and authoritarianism.