Amnesty International, Justice For Myanmar and other human rights groups welcomed today Kirins announcement to suspendall dividend payments of its part-owned subsidiaries Myanmar Brewery Limited (MBL) and Mandalay Brewery Limited (MDL) in Myanmar. The suspended dividends include payments to Kirin Holdings Company and to the military-backed Myanmar Economic Holdings Public Company Limited (MEHL). After being heavily criticized in June, Kirin said at that time that “it is wholly unacceptable to Kirin that any proceeds from the joint-venture with the MEHL could be used for military purposes” (inside.beer, 18.6.2020).
In its official anouncement today, Kirin stated that the funds were withheld “in view of a significant lack of visibility regarding the future business environment for our Myanmar joint-ventures, including the ongoing assessment into the destination of proceeds from MBL and MDL and the spread of COVID-19 in Myanmar.”
However, the company added that it “had appointed Deloitte Tohmatsu Financial Advisory LLC to conduct an independent review of MEHL’s financial and governance structures to determine the destination of proceeds from the joint-venture businesses MBL and MDL as a matter of urgency.” This review will be concluded “by the end of this year barring any new challenges such as a resurgence of COVID-19 cases in the region.”
Montse Ferrer, Researcher on Business and Human Rights at Amnesty International, commented: “This is an important step by Kirin, and shows it is taking its human rights responsibilities in Myanmar seriously. We have repeatedly documented the business links between MEHL and military units directly involved in atrocity crimes against the Rohingya and other minorities in Rakhine, Kachin and northern Shan States. Any company partnering with MEHL risks complicity in these horrors, and we therefore welcome the measures Kirin has taken.
“However, suspending payments is not enough. MEHL has shown no willingness to meaningfully engage with its business partners or reform its structure, which makes proper human rights due diligence impossible. Kirin has appointed Deloitte to investigate the destination of the profits from its Myanmar operations, which should lead it to a decision to responsibly end all business ties with MEHL.”
Justice For Myanmar, another human rights organization, also called “on all businesses to cut ties with the Myanmar military.” The organization said in a statement that “the military continues to profit from assets stolen from the people of Myanmar. Businesses like Myanmar Brewery finance war crimes and crimes against humanity and enrich generals. Wealth acquired through decades of corrupt military rule must be returned to the public. These steps are an essential part of creating a federal democracy where the human rights of all people in Myanmar are protected and there is sustainable peace. The Myanmar military cartel must be dismantled.”