Take a walk, watch television, or use the subway. Do any of these activities in Japan and you will likely come across a Kirin advertisement. Since its inception in 1885 as Japan Brewery, Kirin has grown into a household name in Japan, and arguably one of the world’s best-known Japanese brands.
The beverage giant offers everything from soft drinks to plum wine to yogurt. But its beer is the company’s trademark product, available in more than 40 countries. Its distinctive label depicts the legendary kirin, a magical creature “believed to be a harbinger of good luck.”
However, Kirin’s partnership with the Myanmar military, also known as the Tatmadaw, has brought anything but luck to Myanmar’s ethnic minority populations. For decades, the Tatmadaw has been responsible for grave abuses against the country’s minorities, including the Rohingya in Rakhine state.
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In August and September 2017, the Tatmadaw intensified its campaign of ethnic cleansing, committing widespread killings, sexual violence, and torching of villages against the Rohingya minority in Rakhine state that sent more than 740,000 people fleeing to Bangladesh, where they now live in the world’s largest refugee camp.
A United Nations–backed Fact-Finding Mission reported in 2018 that atrocities by Myanmar’s armed forces against ethnic minorities “rise to the level of both war crimes and crimes against humanity” and in late 2019 warned that the Rohingya faced an increased risk of genocide.