A partnership with a conglomerate in Myanmar is being ended by the Japanese beer giant Kirin potentially because the conglomerate has ties with the military of Myanmar.
The commander-in-chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing of the Myanmar army oversees the functioning of the Myanmar Economic Holdings with which the Japanese company has a partnership in the country.
Hlaing led a military coup to overthrow the government of Myanmar on Monday.
It was “deeply concerned by the recent actions of the military in Myanmar”, Kirin said in a statement on Friday.
With brands like Kirin and Tooheys, Kirin is one of the biggest brewing companies of the world. The company also has a major stake in San Miguel while also holding stakes in a number of companies that make craft beers in the United Kingdom and the United States.
In partnership with Myanmar Economic Holdings (MEH), just a little over half of both Myanmar Brewery and Mandalay Brewery is also owned by the Japanese drinks conglomerate.
“We decided to invest in Myanmar in 2015, believing that, through our business, we could contribute positively to the people and the economy of the country as it entered an important period of democratisation,” Kirin said in a statement sent to the media.
“Given the current circumstances, we have no option but to terminate our current joint-venture partnership with Myanmar Economic Holdings Public Company Limited… We will be taking steps as a matter of urgency to put this termination into effect,” the company said.
MEH’s links to its military and Min Aung Hlaing was uncovered by an investigation by the United Nations (UN). A significant presence across a number of industries is owned by MEH with business interests in banking, tourism, real estate, transportation, gems and metalsm among others.
Anyone doing business with MEH posed “a high risk of contributing” to human rights violations, the UN had said in 2018 based on the findings of a UN mission that investigated the alleged atrocities against the Rohingya people in Myanmar.
Human rights groups have put those foreign companies under pressure that have made business investments in Myanmar. Business operations in Myanmar is owned by a number of foreign oil and gas companies as well as companies in the auto sector and banking and financial sector.
Even before Monday’s military coup, Kirin in particular have been urged by activists to end its joint venture in Myanmar. Those calls were given to the Japanese company following revelations from investigations that the profits generated from the partnership were routed toi the military of the country.
Kirin’s joint venture helps “finance the Myanmar military’s ongoing war crimes and crimes against humanity”, human rights group Justice for Myanmar had previously argued.
“Kirin’s bold and timely move to cut ties sends a strong message to the Myanmar military that their illegitimate and brutal coup and continued genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity will not be tolerated,” Justice For Myanmar spokesman Yadanar Maung said on Friday.
“We appreciate that Kirin has finally listened to the voices of the Myanmar people and made the right decision by cutting ties. We now call on Kirin to encourage other companies to follow suit,” Justice For Myanmar added.
(Adapted from BBC.com)