New Campaign to Boycott Burmese Businesses
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Monday, August 15, 2022

New Campaign to Boycott Burmese Businesses

By MIN LWIN and VIOLET CHO Friday, February 8, 2008


Many Burmese citizens are reluctant to boycott their favorite products

Despite the fact the United States government imposed additional sanctions on the Burmese military junta and its cronies recently, underground activists have initiated a campaign to boycott any goods believed to be linked with the regime. 

Anonymous leaflets were spread around Rangoon this week calling on Burmese citizens to boycott businesses belonging to cronies and supporters of the regime. The leaflets accused the military authorities of bullying the ordinary people of Burma and making them slaves of the junta.

The proposed items for boycott include Myanmar Beer, Dagon Beer, London Cigarettes and Vegas Cigarettes, the state-owned Aung Bar Lay Lottery and all donut shops believed to be owned by relatives of the military leaders.

Myanmar Beer, Dagon Beer, London Cigarettes and Vegas Cigarettes are monopolized by the Union of Myanmar Economic Holdings Company Limited (UMEH).

UMEH is a military conglomerate. Shares in the holding company are held by members of the Ministry of Defense and the armed forces. Its board of directors is comprised of senior military officers.

J’ Donuts coffee shops are a popular chain in Rangoon and are believed to be owned by Kyaing San Shwe, the son of Snr-Gen Than Shwe.
The usual suspect on all sanctions targets, Htoo Trading Company Limited, is also on the boycott list.  The Chief Executive Officer of Htoo Trading Company Limited is the notorious Burmese businessman, Tay Za. Three companies and two individuals that have close connections to Tay Za were also added to the list for targeted sanctions.

Other persons singled out for targeted sanctions include the spouses of senior officials of the military junta.

Interestingly, government newspapers The New Light of Myanmar, The Mirror and two privately run journals, Nan Myint and Snaphot, were on the boycott list. Snaphot is owned by publisher Myat Khaing who is a close associate of Brig-Gen Kyaw Hsan, the minister for information.

Despite the bold moves, reaction from people in Burma has been mixed.

The Irrawaddy spoke to residents in Rangoon, Arakan State, Kachin State, Sagaing Division and Mandalay to sound out their opinion on the fresh boycott call by an underground group in Burma.

A beer shop owner in Sagaing who had not seen the leaflets said: “Burmese people don’t dare take part in this recent boycott campaign.

“We can’t even boycott Chinese products because we depend on Chinese toothpaste every morning,” he explained.

The general manager of an employment agency in Rangoon said, “It is not possible for Burmese people to boycott these products. If you don’t want to smoke London cigarettes, do you have any other choice?”

“I don’t think it will have any effect,” said Ko Ye, a tourist guide from Rangoon. “We don’t have anything to replace these products if we boycott them.”

Speaking to The Irrawaddy by telephone on Friday, a businessman who runs an oil and diesel retailers in Rangoon said, “We have no other choice for beer and cigarettes in Burma. We have long been using these products to relax and release tension.” He added that it would be impossible to boycott these products “if we are left with nothing.”

A writer and critic in Rangoon said, “I don’t think the boycott will be effective, because all the listed products are used by people around the country.”

He also said that it was difficult to find business and companies that have no connections with the military authorities.

A senior editor who publishes a monthly magazine in Rangoon said, “It is a good idea as a people’s movement, but it’s not practical. I think more people will join the boycott movement if it is beneficial to the people.”

However, a Kachin man living in Lai Zar, along the Kachin-Chinese border, backed the boycott campaign.

“I agree that we have to boycott these companies and firms that are close to the military regime,” he said. “Supporting them keeps the regime in power.”

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