Japanese Beer Maker Rethinks Myanmar Military Ties After Coup

“We’re exploring all options,” a Kirin spokesperson told VICE World News.
February 3, 2021, 12:22pm
Myanmar coup, Kirin
Kirin Beer is assessing its business ties with military-backed Myanmar Brewery Ltd. PHOTO: YOSHIKAZU TSUNO / AFP

Japanese beer maker Kirin said it would review its business relations with the military-owned company that brews Myanmar beer after a coup on Monday, and that “all options” are on the table.

In recent months, Kirin has faced mounting pressure to cut ties with Myanmar Economic Holdings Limited (MEHL), a sprawling military conglomerate that has interests in real estate, banking, and mining, among other sectors. Kirin and MEHL jointly own Myanmar Brewery Limited—which makes the ubiquitous Myanmar beer—and Mandalay Brewery Limited.

The Japanese company came under fire after human rights groups said it made donations to the Myanmar military amid a crackdown on Rohingya Muslims in 2017. Late last year, Kirin said it had suspended dividend payments to MEHL. But it was later criticized for not releasing the findings of an outside report commissioned by the company to learn more about where exactly the profits for its Myanmar operations were ending up.

Now Kirin has to add a coup to their list of assessments.

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“We’re exploring all options, including how to continue with the relationship,” Russell Roll, a corporate communications manager for Kirin, told VICE World News. “There’s a lot of stuff going on right now. It’s hard to say.” 

Kirin had set April as their deadline to determine the future of their business ties to MEHL. But Roll added that it’s “more than likely that the coup d’etat will affect it at some point.” 

“The focus is on negotiating at the moment and finding out the best way to move forward,” Roll concluded.  

Myanmar’s military stands accused of committing genocide against the Rohingya minority in the 2017 campaign, though it has repeatedly said it was defending itself against militants. The campaign drew scrutiny to companies doing business dealings with the military-owned conglomerate, whose profits help fund abuses, according to rights groups.

A United Nations Fact-Finding Mission report from 2019 said that foreign businesses with ties to Myanmar’s military and its various conglomerates were found to be at risk of indirectly contributing to human rights violations.

“At a minimum, these foreign companies are contributing to supporting the Tatmadaw’s financial capacity,” the United Nations found, referring to the armed forces of Myanmar.

Amnesty International, which uncovered the 2017 donations, repeated calls for Kirin to drop MEHL.

“Amnesty again calls on Kirin and other companies in business relationships with MEHL to responsibly end all business ties with the military-linked conglomerate,” Montse Ferrer, a business and human rights researcher with the group, told VICE World News.

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