Myanmar: Kirin's subsidiaries allegedly maintain business ties with Myanmar's military; company responds

The Guardian's article, "Australian craft beer brewer faces criticism over partnership with Myanmar military", alleges that Kirin’s business partnership with the Myanmar military “provides not only much-needed foreign currency for the isolated Myanmar military… but also, crucially, is a source of international legitimacy”. The article cites Kirin's statement that it “will now conduct a further examination of [its] operations and relationships in Myanmar”. However, there are no specific details available as to what such re-examination entails.

The article further states that the “sale of New Belgium to the conglomerate of Lion Little World Beverages and Kirin is shameful”. The article also alleges that “[a]s a subsidiary of Kirin, New Belgium would become part of a key financial network empowering the Burmese army to continue committing genocide and crimes against humanity.”

Business and Human Rights Resource Centre invited Kirin, New Belgium Brewing, and Lion Little World Beverages to respond to the allegations. The article and the response of Kirin, on behalf of its subsidiaries, are linked below.

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Article
19 January 2020

New owner of New Belgium Brewing, Kirin's subsidiary Little Lion World Beverages criticised over partnership with Myanmar's military

Author: David Pred

"Australian craft beer brewer faces criticism over partnership with Myanmar military", 28 Dec 2019

Australian craft beer brewer Lion Little World has faced international criticism over a business partnership with the Myanmar military, which is accused of genocide in its persecution of the Rohingya ethnic and religious minority.

Australia-based Lion Little World Beverages is a wholly owned subsidiary of Japanese beverage giant Kirin, which 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.

The business partnership with Kirin provides not only much-needed foreign currency for the isolated Myanmar military...but also, crucially, is a source of international legitimacy...

A Kirin spokeswoman said it took the allegations of human rights abuses "very seriously".

"At Kirin, respect for human rights is fundamental to all of our business activities," she said.

"Consistent with Kirin's ongoing monitoring of the situation, we will now conduct a further examination of our operations and relationships in Myanmar..."

This month, the employee shareholders of New Belgium Brewery in Fort Collins, Colorado, approved its acquisition by Lion Little World.

In a letter announcing the deal, the New Belgium chief executive, Kim Jordan, said the company had a "crazy enthusiasm for being a business role model"...

But others...have condemned the deal.

"The sale of New Belgium to the conglomerate of Lion Little World Beverages and Kirin is shameful," the Fort Collins Community Action Network wrote in an open letter...

"The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights described the attack on the Rohingya as a textbook example of ethnic cleansing..."

"These crimes are enabled by the Burmese military's business interests, including their US$960m partnership with Kirin. As a subsidiary of Kirin, New Belgium would become part of a key financial network empowering the Burmese army to continue committing genocide and crimes against humanity," the statement from the Karen Organisation of America, the Karen Community of North Carolina (where New Belgium also has operations), and Inclusive Development International, said...

Read the full post here

Company response
19 January 2020

Kirin's response

Author: Kirin

...Kirin shares the concerns of the international community regarding the serious questions being raised about human rights in Myanmar.

Kirin takes its responsibilities in Myanmar seriously and will take necessary action to ensure our business activities in the region adhere to the highest standards.

At Kirin, respect for human rights is fundamental to all of our business activities and we remain committed to ensuring that our operations are in line with the Kirin Group Human Rights Policy.

https://www.kirinholdings.co.jp/english/csv/human_rights/pdf/myanmar_en.pdf
https://www.kirinholdings.co.jp/english/news/2018/1214_01.html

We appreciate the challenges of operating in frontier markets and are constantly working to deepen our understanding of the many complexities and improve our systems. It is our view that one of our roles in business is to encourage alignment with global best practice and corporate governance standards.

In addition to building on the commitments set out in the summary report of our 2018 Human Rights Impact Assessment in Myanmar, we are in discussion with MEHL on the challenges in advancing governance and transparency in our businesses in Myanmar, including the potential issues highlighted in the United Nations Fact-Finding Mission in Myanmar's report...

Download the full document here