Kirin restructures donation policy after Amnesty report
JAPANESE brewer Kirin has tightened its donations policy and will facilitate a human rights impact assessment on its operations after an Amnesty International report revealed it donated money to the Myanmar military or Tatmadaw.
As a result of the donations, Kirin has also been listed in the Burma Campaign UK’S “The Dirty List”, which names international companies doing business with the Tatmadaw, alongside Facebook and Visa. The Tatmadaw has been linked to war crimes in Rakhine State by a UN Fact Finding Mission.
Kirin Holdings released an update on December 14 on the investigation it launched after Amnesty International reported last June that Kirin subsidiary Myanmar Brewery Ltd (MBL), was donating to the Tatmadaw. A six-point action plan was also launched by Kirin.
The firm’s plan includes suspending donations made by MBL, tightening its donation policy, holding regular internal audits to ensure the new policy is being followed, and conducting a human rights impact assessment on its operations by an external independent consultant.
MBL had made three donations totalling US$30,000 between September 1 and October 3 last year for humanitarian purposes but Amnesty in its report suggested that the donations were made to the Tatmadaw.
In response, Kirin clarified last June that three donations – two financial contributions as well as an in-kind donation of rice and cooking oil – were made to the Rakhine State government.
The company believed that there was no reason that two of the contributions would go to the military as they were handed directly to civilians.
However it conceded that it had donated US$6000 to Commander-in Chief of the Tatmadaw Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, at a televised ceremony in the capital Nay Pyi Taw on September 1, 2017.
Kirin subsequently launched an investigation but was “unable to determine conclusively” if the amount was actually used for its intended purpose.
The development comes as western investors have held back their expansion plans in Myanmar due to the refugee crisis in Rakhine which began in August 2017.
Some large multinational firms have also faced stakeholder pressure over doing business in Myanmar. ‘‘This isn’t a question of Kirin changing the way it behaves in Myanmar.
“The problem is that their business partner is accused of genocide by the United Nations. There is no responsible way that Kirin can operate in Myanmar as long as it is doing business with the military,” said Mark Farmaner, Burma Campaign UK director.
Phil Robertson, deputy director of the Asia Division for Human Rights Watch, said that Kirin’s international brand is ‘‘severely tarnished by this involvement.”
Regarding the latest investigation, Mr Nobuhiko Hiro, deputy director of Kirin’s group corporate department said via email that the company is “constantly working to increase our understanding, improve our systems and reinforce our safeguards in order to give us the confidence to grow our business in Myanmar and enable us to contribute to the economic and social development of the country”.