UN Human Rights Council names AccorHotels Myanmar business partner in report on military business interests and crimes against humanity

22.09.19 Feature
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A new report to the current session of the UN Human Rights Council identifies dozens of companies with direct and indirect ties to the military (Tatmadaw) that enable this powerful institution to operate with impunity while committing crimes against humanity. Among the companies listed is the conglomerate Max Myanmar Group, a business partner of AccorHotels.   

In its report to the 42nd Session of the UN Human Rights Council on September 9-27, 2019, the Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar concludes that: "... the Mission now has reasonable grounds to also conclude that officials from KBZ Group and Max Myanmar should be criminally investigated and, if appropriate, prosecuted for making a substantial and direct contribution to the commission of the crime against humanity of 'other inhumane acts' and persecution as outlined above in the applicable legal framework on business officials and criminal liability."

This new report on the Myanmar military's business ties follows the recommendations in 2018 that accountability can only be enforced if the Tatmadaw is isolated financially, removing the sources of revenue and economic interests that are the basis for its autonomy and impunity. Foreign and domestic business relationships that generate revenue for the Tatmadaw contribute to human rights abuses including murder, imprisonment, enforced disappearance, torture, rape, sexual slavery and other forms of sexual violence, persecution and enslavement. The 2018 Mission report also concluded that: "... there is sufficient information to warrant the investigation and prosecution of senior officials in the Tatmadaw chain of command, so that a competent court can determine their liability for genocide in relation to the situation in Rakhine State."

Max Myanmar is listed as one of 11 private conglomerates considered to be "the largest crony companies in Myanmar". The 2019 report describes donations by Max Myanmar to support military clearance operations in Rakhine State and the company's involvement in "the construction of roads that go through villages destroyed in the 2017 clearance operations, the building of processing sites for Rohingya that have been described as internment camps, and the construction of a border fence between Myanmar and Bangladesh."

While the 2019 report lists dozens of foreign companies with direct or indirect business ties to the Tatmadaw, AccorHotels is not mentioned.  But Accor entered into a business relationship with Max Myanmar in 2013 with the opening of luxury property The Lake Garden Nay Pyi Taw - MGallery by Sofitel. In April 2015 Accor opened a second hotel, Novotel Yangon Max, with Max Myanmar's Max Hotels Group. As far back as 2006 it was publically known that Zaw Zaw, the chairperson of Max Myanmar Group, had close business ties with the military.

In 2017, the IUF raised with AccorHotels serious violations of the right to freedom of association and collective bargaining at The Lake Garden Nay Pyi Taw - MGallery. The company defended their relationship with Max Myanmar and rejected calls to address a fundamental failure in their human rights due diligence. Rather than acting to secure the reinstatement of unfairly terminated union leaders, AccorHotels instead produced proof that good labour relations had been restored. The proof consisted of  new employment contracts signed by all hotel employees in February 2018, in which Zaw Zaw - the chairperson of Max Myanmar named in the UN human rights report - is personally listed as the employer.  As chairperson, Zaw Zaw is among those company officials that the UN report recommends for prosecution: "... the Mission concludes on reasonable grounds that officials from KBZ Group and Max Myanmar aided, abetted, or otherwise assisted in the crimes against humanity of persecution and other inhumane acts."

The OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises require AccorHotels to identify, prevent and mitigate adverse human rights impacts arising from their activities, including those of their business partners. The French 2017 'Corporate Duty of Vigilance' law makes this human rights due diligence a legal obligation, and requires publication of a vigilance plan. AccorHotel's 2017 plan, buried in a registration document and annual report of some 400 pages, makes no mention of the risk assessment, prevention and mitigation process arising from partnering with business interests linked to the military in Myanmar.

AccorHotels must immediately address its massive human rights due diligence failure and respond to the UN Independent International Fact-Finding Mission's call for the financial isolation of the Tatmadaw.