Probe into Japan beer firm’s links to Myanmar rights abuses ‘inconclusive’

Japanese beer giant Kirin said Thursday an investigation into whether money from its joint ventures with the Myanmar military had funded rights abuses was “inconclusive”.

Myanmar stands accused of genocide at the UN’s top court after a brutal 2017 crackdown by the military forced 750,000 Rohingya Muslims to flee to refugee camps in Bangladesh.

After mounting pressure from rights groups and UN investigators, Kirin Holdings last year asked consultancy group Deloitte to determine how the money from its business tie-ups with Myanmar military-owned breweries had been used.

“Unfortunately, the assessment was inconclusive as a result of Deloitte being unable to access sufficient information required to make a definitive determination,” Kirin said.

It is “wholly unacceptable” for any proceeds from the joint ventures to be used for military purposes, its statement added.

Myanmar denies committing genocide, justifying the 2017 operations as a means of rooting out Rohingya insurgents.

The military also stands accused of widespread abuses in its operations to stem insurgencies by various other ethnic minority groups in the country’s restive borderlands.

Rights group Burma Campaign UK, which has placed Kirin on its “Dirty List” of international companies doing business with the military, denounced the findings of Kirin’s report as “farcical”.

“Kirin are making themselves look ridiculous trying to claim they can’t find out if the Burmese military uses its money for military purposes,” said director Mark Farmaner.

Kirin has a majority stake in both Myanmar Brewery Limited and Mandalay Brewery Limited.

Myanmar Brewery, whose beverages include its flagship and ubiquitous Myanmar Beer brand, on its own boasts a market share of nearly 80 percent, according to figures published by Kirin in 2018.

The company said Thursday it would uphold a suspension of dividend payments from both breweries that was originally issued in November.

Myanmar’s military did not answer calls for comment.