New evidence of plummeting sales means Myanmar Beer boycott is ‘working’, activists say

Revenue and profits from Myanmar Beer are down by nearly 50 percent, according to Japanese parent company Kirin’s first quarterly report for 2021, released on Wednesday.

In a statement published on the same day, activist group Justice for Myanmar celebrated the shift as “clear evidence that the mass boycott of military products by the people of Myanmar is working.”

The popular boycott of Myanmar Brewery—a joint venture between Kirin and the military-owned Myanmar Economic Holdings, Ltd (MEHL)—gained momentum following the February 1 military coup in Myanmar.

In early February, a public campaign emerged to “stop buying junta business.” Photos spread on social media of people destroying Mytel signs and sim cards, Ruby cigarettes, and emptying bottles of Myanmar, Mandalay and Dagon beers—all products under military ownership.

Myanmar Brewery, along with Mandalay Brewery, once dominated the country’s market and produced around 80 percent of the beer sold in Myanmar.

“I used to sell Myanmar Beer as one of the main drinks at my restaurant,” Aung Hlaing Tun, a restaurant owner in Yangon’s Kyauktada Township told Myanmar Now, adding that he has since closed his business in protest of the coup. “Even when I open my restaurant again after the revolution succeeds, I won’t sell Myanmar Beer. I am determined not to buy any of the military’s products,” he explained. 

Kirin reported that Myanmar Brewery’s operating profit from January-March 2021 fell 49.6 percent compared to the same period in 2020, or by 2.5 billion yen (nearly US$23 million). Revenue was also down by 46.7 percent, or 5 billion yen (nearly $46 million).

Kirin’s report stated that Myanmar Brewery’s “sales volume declined significantly due to the impact of COVID-19, political upheaval, etc.”

However, another restaurant owner in Dawei told Myanmar Now that even though his business remains open, there has been “no demand” for Myanmar Beer from customers for around two months.

“We can’t sell it anymore because no one asks for it,” he said. 

Justice for Myanmar also dismissed Kirin’s claim that the drop was due to the pandemic and political instability.

“We know that it is evidence of a mass rejection of their abhorrent business model in Myanmar, which finances these killers,” the group’s spokesperson Yadanar Maung said in Wednesday’s statement.

At the time of reporting, more than 780 people had been murdered by the junta’s armed forces since the coup, and nearly 5,000 arrested.

On February 5, four days after the military ousted Myanmar’s elected government, Kirin announced that they planned to end their partnership with MEHL, but at the time of reporting it was not known what—if any—further action had been taken toward terminating the partnership.

“We call on Kirin to disclose the steps they are taking to end their relationship with the Myanmar military and their timeframe,” Justice for Myanmar wrote.

In its own call to boycott Kirin in August 2020, Burma Campaign UK described Myanmar and Brewery and Mandalay Brewery as “earning the Burmese military tens of millions of dollars in revenue every year.”

In August 2019, a UN fact-finding mission said business partnerships with MEHL had helped finance the military’s ongoing “war crimes and crimes against humanity.” 


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