Businesses start to rethink Myanmar as coup ignites protests

Police in riot gear for am line blocking protesters during a demonstration in Mandalay, Myanmar, Tuesday, Feb. 9, 2021. Protesters continued to gather Tuesday morning in major cities breaching Myanmar's new military rulers' ban of public gathering of five or more issued on Monday intended to crack down on peaceful public protests opposing their takeover. (AP Photo)
Police in riot gear for am line blocking protesters during a demonstration in Mandalay, Myanmar, Tuesday, Feb. 9, 2021. Protesters continued to gather Tuesday morning in major cities breaching Myanmar's new military rulers' ban of public gathering of five or more issued on Monday intended to crack down on peaceful public protests opposing their takeover. (AP Photo) (Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

BANGKOK – Businesses are just beginning to reassess their investments in Myanmar after the military seized power, detaining civilian leaders and sparking mass protests.

Singaporean tycoon Lim Kaling, a board member of technology firm Razer Inc., announced Tuesday that he was pulling out of a cigarette joint venture with military-linked Virginia Tobacco Co., the country’s biggest cigarette maker and owner of the Red Ruby and Premium Gold brands.

Lim held a one-third stake in RMH Singapore Pte., which owns 49% of the joint venture that began in 1993.

He said he felt “grave concern" over the situation in Myanmar, and “I am therefore exploring options for the responsible disposal of this stake."

That announcement followed a petition drive on Change.org to exert pressure on him to end his business ties with the military. It urged Razer to dismiss him from its board if he did not.

So far, most companies with major dealings or investments in Myanmar appear to be taking a wait-and-see approach.

But last week just after the Feb. 1 coup, Japan’s Kirin Holdings, a leading brewery and food and beverage maker, announced it would end its joint venture with military-affiliated Myanma Economic Holdings PLC., or MEHL.

“Given the current circumstances, we have no option but to terminate our current joint-venture partnership,” said Kirin, owner of the San Miguel, Fat Tire and Lion brands. “We will be taking steps as a matter of urgency to put this termination into effect.”