Kirin abandons Myanmar joint venture over military coup

Japanese brewer scraps tie-up, saying it was 'deeply concerned by the recent actions of the military in Myanmar, which are against our standards and human rights policy'

Kirin abandons Myanmar joint venture over military coup
Kirin has been under pressure to reassess its tie-up with Myanmar Economic Holdings, with which it launched the joint venture in 2015, due to the local partner's military connections. File photo by Reuters.

(ATF) Japanese drinks giant Kirin Holdings said on February 5 it was scrapping its beer alliance with a top Myanmar conglomerate whose owners have been identified by the United Nations as members of the military, which overthrew the elected Suu Kyi government this week.

“We have no option but to terminate our current joint-venture partnership with Myanma Economic Holdings, which provides … welfare fund management for the military,” Yoshinori Isozaki, Kirin president and chief executive, said in a statement.  “We will be taking steps as a matter of urgency to put this termination into effect.

Kirin said it was “deeply concerned by the recent actions of the military in Myanmar, which are against our standards and human rights policy”.

The Myanmar military on February 1 overthrew the elected government of leader Aung San Suu Kyi, handing power to its top general and declaring a one-year state of emergency, sparking widespread international condemnation.

Isozaki said the coup “has shaken the very foundation of the partnership” between Kirin Holdings and its Myanmar partner. “We have been forced to make the decision to terminate the alliance,” he added.

UNDER PRESSURE

Kirin has been under pressure to reassess the tie-up with Myanmar Economic Holdings, with which it launched the joint venture in 2015, because its local partner is controlled by the Myanmar military.

After mounting pressure from rights groups and UN investigators, Kirin last year asked consultancy group Deloitte to determine how the money had been used.

But on February 4 the beer giant said an investigation into whether the money had funded rights abuses was "inconclusive".

The Myanmar military, known as the Tatmadaw, stands accused of genocide after a brutal 2017 crackdown forced 750,000 Rohingya Muslims to flee to refugee camps in Bangladesh.

The military has been accused of war crimes against many of the country's ethnic minorities over recent decades. Myanmar has denied its clampdown in western Rakhine state was genocide, but the International Court of Justice is expected to go ahead with a hearing on that later this year.

With reporting by Reuters and Agence France-Presse

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brewing beer Kirin Myanmar coup Japanese brewer Myanmar Economic Holdings Ltd MEHL