Open Letter to Western Union President and CEO Hikmet Ersek

We represent 33 organizations calling 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-mandated International Independent Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar has urged the international community to “sever ties with Myanmar’s military and the vast web of companies it controls and relies on” as “any foreign business activity involving the Tatmadaw (military) and its conglomerates MEHL and MEC poses a high risk of contributing to, or being linked to, violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law. At a minimum, these foreign companies are contributing to supporting the Tatmadaw’s financial capacity.”

Western Union is doing business with a military responsible for the rape of thousands of women, and the killing of thousands more. There are plenty of alternative non-military companies in Burma that Western Union can use in Burma. There is no justification for putting money into the pockets of Burma’s brutal military.

We commend Western Union CEO Hikmet Ersek for speaking out for the rights of migrants and 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.  By partnering with Burma’s generals, Western Union puts at risk its reputation and that of its top management.

We urge Western Union to end its partnership with Myawaddy Bank. We further urge Western Union to adopt a policy of not doing business with any Burmese military-owned or military-controlled companies and conduct the necessary thorough due diligence to ensure that it does not partner with such companies again.


Action Committee for Democracy Development
Association of Human Rights Defenders and Promoters- HRDP
Association Suisse Birmanie (Swiss Burma Association)
Burma Campaign UK
Burma Task Force
Burmese Rohingya Organisation UK (BROUK)
Collectif HAMEB
Dana Investment Advisors
Free Burma Campaign (South Africa)
Friends Fiduciary Corporation
Fund Our Future
Global Witness
Independent Old Catholic Church, Office of Ecumenical, Interfaith, and Global Engagement
Info Birmanie
Institute on Statelessness and Inclusion
International Campaign for the Rohingya
International Center for Rights and Justice
International Interfaith Peace Corps
Investors Against Genocide
Justice For All
Karen Organization of America
Never Again Coalition
No Business With Genocide
Partners Relief and Development UK
Pax Christi Metro New York
Progressive Voice
SharePower Responsible Investing
Swedish Burma Committee
Unitarian Universalist Service Committee
US Campaign for Burma


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