Kirin, a leading Japanese beverage giant and parent brewer of a suite of Australian beer brands such as XXXX, Tooheys, and James Squire, is forced to review its partnership with Myanmar military after international condemnation for its business association with an army accused of genocide.
In a statement, the company’s president and chief executive, Yoshinori Isozaki said that the company recognised the “challenges of operating in frontier markets” and was working to improve its practices.
“Human rights is fundamental to all of our business activities … we are reviewing strategic options for our operations in Myanmar.”
Kirin’s review of its partnership with the Myanmar military is being led by its international advisory board, whose members include Australians Sir Rod Eddington and Paula Dwyer.
Kirin owns a little over half of both Myanmar Brewery and Mandalay Brewery in partnership with Myanmar Economic Holdings Ltd (MEHL), a conglomerate of the Myanmar military which is accused of committing genocide in its persecution of the Rohingya ethnic and religious minority.
The business partnership with Kirin provides not only much-needed foreign currency for the isolated Myanmar military – which is subject to global arms embargoes – but also, crucially, is a source of international legitimacy.
Kirin was named in a United Nations fact-finding mission report as having donated money to the Myanmar military – known as the Tatmadaw.
The donations came at a time the military sought to raise money it then used in so-called “clearance operations” against the Rohingya, which included mass murder, including of children, gang rape, torching of villages in a scorched earth policy, and widespread systemic torture. Kirin has acknowledged making three donations but says much of the money was given to civilians for humanitarian purposes.
In addition to the direct donations, totalling about US$12,000 ($17,000), the report warned that Myanmar Economic Holdings Limited’s (MEHL) revenue was funnelled to the military, further enabling the armed forces’ crackdown against the country’s minority Rohingya.
The UN report said “any engagement in any form” with the Myanmar military was “indefensible”.
Isozaki said Kirin had met with the management of MEHL to discuss the UN fact-finding report.
“We have requested that MEHL provide Kirin with updated details on MEHL’s financial and governance structures.
“The Kirin Group takes its responsibilities in Myanmar seriously and will take necessary action to ensure our business activities in the region adhere to the highest standards. A further update on our position will be provided once Kirin has reviewed the information provided by MEHL.” (Source: The Guardian)