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Kirin Abandons Myanmar Joint Venture Over Military Coup

Japanese drinks giant Kirin Holdings said it has to scrap its beer alliance with a top Myanmar conglomerate as it is owned by the military, which overthrew the elected Suu Kyi government

Kirin has been under pressure to quit its JV with the Myanmar military following massacres in Rakhine state in 2017 and the coup that overthrew the Suu Kyi government that was set to take office on Feb 1, 2021. Reuters photo.


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.


• George Russell and Jim Pollard, with reporting by Reuters, AFP

This report was updated on December 23, 2021 for style purposes.





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George Russell

George Russell is a freelance writer and editor based in Hong Kong who has lived in Asia since 1996. His work has been published in the Financial Times, The Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, New York Post, Variety, Forbes and the South China Morning Post.

Jim Pollard

Jim Pollard is an Australian journalist based in Thailand since 1999. He worked for News Ltd papers in Sydney, Perth, London and Melbourne before travelling through SE Asia in the late 90s. He was a senior editor at The Nation for 17+ years and has a family in Bangkok.


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