Myanmar Coup: Japan Beer Maker Kirin to Cut Ties to Military

The company is the first major conglomerate to break away from the Myanmar military.
Myanmar beer, Japan
Kirin beer (L) and Myanmar beer (R). Photos: AFP

Japanese beer giant Kirin has cut ties with the Myanmar military four days after it arrested leader Aung San Suu Kyi and seized power in a coup, a major blow to the army’s profit-making machine and the first major company in the world to take this step. 

Kirin Beer said in a statement Friday it was “deeply concerned by the recent actions of the military in Myanmar, which are against our standards and Human Rights Policy.”


“Given the current circumstances, we have no option but to terminate our current joint-venture partnership with Myanmar Economic Holdings Public Company Limited, which provides the service of welfare fund management for the military.” 

Myanmar Economic Holdings Public Company Limited, or MEHL, brews Myanmar beer, which dominates the beer market in the Southeast Asian country. It also has vast holdings in real estate, mining and tourism, among other areas.

The decision comes after Kirin told VICE World News on Wednesday that “all options” are on the table with its Myanmar brewing partner. The company was already under enormous pressure from rights groups to drop MEHL after the 2017 Rohingya crisis in which the military violently expelled the stateless minority.

Myanmar’s military has been accused of committing committing genocide against the Rohingya minority in the 2017 campaign. Businesses with ties to the military drew criticism, as profits were linked to help fund abuses, according to human rights organizations. 

Kirin also said it would taking steps “as a matter of urgency to put this termination into effect. We will aim to provide updates as soon as practicably possible.” 

The announcement was welcomed by Amnesty International, which published investigations into the complex financial links between Kirin and MEHL.


“This is positive news,” Ming Yu Hah, deputy regional director for campaigns, said. “We call on all other international businesses linked to the financing of the Myanmar military to do the same.”

It was also celebrated on social media but some Myanmar observers said the decision should have come much earlier after the atrocities against the Rohingya.

Pressure is building on the Myanmar military after the United Nations Security Council released a statement calling for the release of Aung San Suu Kyi and other civilian leaders on Thursday.

The United States also said it was considering new rounds of targeted sanctions in response to the coup.