Kirin Scraps Joint Venture With Myanmar Military-Owned Firm After Coup

YANGON — Japanese beverage giant Kirin has decided to cut ties with a Myanmar military-owned conglomerate following the armed forces’ coup and detention of national civilian leaders State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and President U Win Myint.

Kirin Holdings Co. Ltd. on Friday said it will end its joint-venture partnership with Myanma Economic Holdings Public Co. Ltd. (MEHL). Kirin held 51 percent of both Myanmar Brewery and Mandalay Brewery, with MEHL holding the rest.

Five days after the military takeover, Kirin said that “Given the current circumstances, we have no option but to terminate our current joint-venture partnership” with MEHL, “which provides the service of welfare fund management for the military.”

“We will be taking steps as a matter of urgency to put this termination into effect,” Kirin said.

Kirin said the company’s president and CEO, Yoshinori Isozaki, is “deeply concerned by the recent actions of the military in Myanmar, which are against our standards and human rights policy.”

Kirin earlier faced international condemnation for its partnership with Myanmar’s military amid accusations of genocide against the Rohingya. Last year, Kirin hired Deloitte Tohmatsu Financial Advisory to conduct an independent review of the financial and governance structures of MEHL. However, its probe into MEHL’s military connections ended inconclusively because access to information was denied.

Nonetheless, Kirin stopped making dividend payments to the military-owned company in November. Kirin’s Myanmar business recorded operating profit of US$115 million (161.84 billion kyats) in 2019, according to the company.

The company said it decided to invest in Myanmar in 2015, believing that, through its business, it could contribute positively to the people and the economy of the country as it entered an important period of democratization.

Rights group Justice for Myanmar praised Kirin’s decision and called on the international community to impose targeted sanctions on Myanmar military-owned businesses, their directors and significant business associates.

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Source: The Irrawaddy

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