We asked Justice For Myanmar about the Cartel Finance Map backstory: how the project came about, what the significance of it is, and how graph visualization makes for impactful storytelling.
Why did you feel it was important to look at the money trails connecting to the military?
The military in Myanmar functions as a massive, institutionalized cartel, hiding its financial operations in plain sight behind a secretive network of shell companies touching banking, trade, logistics, construction and mining, tourism, and agriculture. Holding companies and private companies locally and abroad allow for corruption, illicit trade — and big profits. The Cartel Finance Map is a revolutionary tool that visualizes the links that extend from the country’s most violent generals towards corporations in major capitals across the world.
What impact would it have if more businesses cut their ties with the military and entities that are connected with it?
With more people discovering the way the country’s cash flows fund a brutal regime that commits genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity, we can cut the military junta’s power off at its source. We’ve already seen that our commitment to exposing hidden links actually works. The movement against the military’s business networks has spread across the world, and the military is losing its profits. As of the first anniversary of the campaign launch, some of the major military business targets have been forced to take action in the wake of our campaign and subsequent investigations by journalists around the world.
How did graph visualization help tell this story around the military’s financing?
The visualization has helped turn data into an opportunity for action. By making this trove of data accessible and easy to parse, we have been able to put pressure on key corporations and governments locally and internationally to ask them to look at their role in funding this brutal regime.
The visualization has served as a key input for journalists to begin their own in-depth investigations. It has also offered a simple and clear way for members of the public to see how their own lives are touched by this: from the beer they drink, to the pension funds their money is invested in.