Protesters hold up the three finger salute with signs calling for the release of detained Myanmar civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi during a demonstration against the military coup in Yangon on February 16, 2021. - AFP KUALA LUMPUR: There are no specific indications of Malaysian businesses pulling out of Myanmar following the coup early this month but some might rethink the decision if the situation worsens, said vice president of the Malaysian Economic Association Dr Evelyn S. Devadason. The University of Malaya professor said Myanmar is also highly unlikely to be an investment choice for new investors, at least during the year-long emergency period, due to uncertainties in the wake of the coup. “I would think that if the situation gets worse, there may be a capital flight out of Myanmar. For now, we cannot fathom the military’s game plan. Even if the coup is aborted after a year, international investors in Myanmar will have to consider the issue of political uncertainty that follows in the post-coup environment, ” she told Bernama in an interview. Evelyn said existing international businesses in Myanmar must anticipate some changes, such as a new regime and new policy changes, which may become unfavourable to the investment climate in Myanmar. “That is the possibility of the investment environment becoming more hostile. Additionally, the coup-empowered government may not be favourable to companies that ventured into the Myanmar market based on its move towards a democratic rule, ” she said. Evelyn said Malaysian businesses and investors in Myanmar also need to be prepared for tougher sanctions by the United States on Myanmar companies if situations continue to deteriorate. “That is going to indirectly affect bilateral trade. It will not just undermine investor’s confidence, but if the sanctions involve Myanmar companies with heavy investment ties with Malaysia, then that could pose a problem for Malaysia’s trade relationship with Myanmar, ” she said. Evelyn noted that Malaysian businesses in Myanmar are engaged in oil and gas, real estate, manufacturing, hotel and tourism and agriculture. She opined that in trade, things may not change much in the immediate term given the current patterns in trade but warned that if investments are affected on a large scale, bilateral trade with Myanmar will eventually slow down.In 2019, with approximately US$2bil worth of investments in Myanmar, Malaysia was among the top 10 largest investors in the country.According to the United Nations Comtrade database, the bilateral trade volume grew by 4.8% between 2012 and 2019, from US$888mil in 2012 to US$931mil in 2019. Malaysia remained a net exporter to Myanmar. The coup, she noted, comes at a time where the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) has just revealed a sharp contraction of 31% in foreign direct investment (FDI) in South-East Asia. — Bernama
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