Myanmar Regime Downplays Japanese Brewer Kirin’s Exit From Country
By AFP 16 February 2022
Myanmar’s junta on Tuesday dismissed the latest exit from the country by a foreign company after last year’s coup, saying beer brewed in partnership with departing Japanese drinks giant Kirin would be “easy to substitute.”
Human rights groups have pressed foreign companies to rethink their activities in Myanmar following the February 2021 coup and a subsequent crackdown which, according to local monitoring groups, has left more than 1,500 people dead.
Kirin on Monday became the latest to turn off the taps in recent weeks, following energy giants TotalEnergies, Chevron and Woodside — although the junta has not commented directly on any of these.
The junta said in a statement it had no comment on Kirin’s “internal company affairs” and its decision to end its involvement in Myanmar Brewery Limited.
But it added “the withdrawal of beer business is easy to substitute… people will switch to other beer.”
Kirin said its decision came after months of wrangling following the February 2021 coup that toppled Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s government and prompted the company to express concerns about human rights.
The junta statement also said it had yet to receive any submission by Kirin regarding the sale or transfer of shares in the firm’s joint partnership in the country.
The Japanese firm ran the brewing firm in a joint venture with Myanma Economic Holdings (MEHPCL), one of the military junta’s sprawling conglomerates.
Myanmar Brewery, whose beverages include its flagship and ubiquitous Myanmar Beer brand, boasted a market share of nearly 80 percent, according to figures published by Kirin in 2018.
Kirin had been under pressure even before the coup over its ties to Myanmar’s military, and launched an investigation after rights groups called for transparency into whether money from its joint venture had funded rights abuses.
Its beer has been widely boycotted since the coup.
Sales losing fizz
The pandemic and supply chain disruptions have also hit the country, with Kirin saying in its earnings report released Monday that Myanmar’s beer market has shrunk by about 20 percent.
It said Myanmar Brewery’s sales volumes had decreased by around 30 percent compared to the same period last year.
Investors flocked to the country after the military relaxed its iron grip in 2011, paving the way for democratic reforms and economic liberalization in the country of more than 50 million people.
Since the coup, however, human rights groups have pressed foreign companies to rethink their activities in Myanmar.
The US government last month warned companies worldwide that doing business with Myanmar ran “the risk of engaging in conduct that may expose them to significant reputational, financial and legal risks.”
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