Braving the sweltering summer heat, more than 100 businesspeople gathered in central Tokyo on Aug. 6 to get the latest update on Myanmar's economy. Participants were showered with promises of lucrative investment opportunities in sectors including health, education and infrastructure, and repeatedly told about the two countries' wonderful bilateral relationship.
A sobering breeze set in, however, when the keynote speaker, Myanmar Ambassador to Japan Thurain Thant Zin, was asked about the United Nations-mandated Fact-Finding Mission's latest 111-page report on the Myanmar military's business ties. Among the Japanese companies noted in that report are beer manufacturer Kirin Holdings, for providing financial support to the military, and tobacco manufacturer Japan Tobacco, for having a joint venture with military-operated Myanmar Economic Corp. (MEC).
Kirin Holdings publicly acknowledged last year after an investigation by Amnesty International that it donated $6,000 for "humanitarian assistance" to the Rakhine state government in 2017. After an internal investigation last December, Kirin admitted it could not determine whether the donation was used for said purposes. Japan Tobacco denied having a joint venture with MEC.