Asian and Nordic firms struggle to assess the aftermath of Myanmar coup

According to The Star, Foreign companies operating in Myanmar struggled to assess the turbulence of possible effects arising with the recent Myanmar military coup in the country.

Companies including Norway’s Telenor, Japanese retail giant Aeon, Singapore’s Overseas-Chinese Banking Corp, and South Korean trading firm POSCO International reported intermittent disruptions to their business with a very worrying situation regarding confirming the safety of their staff within Myanmar after phone and internet connections were disrupted Monday morning. Other companies in Myanmar closed their offices.

Since Suu Kyi’s party won a landslide election in 2015 and established the first civilian government in half a century many major multinational companies have invested themselves in Myanmar with the prospect of an emerging market of more than 50 million people.

Telenor, Norway’s telecoms provider stated that the company is greatly concerned with the current situation and due to parts of the mobile network being down within the country, the situation remains unclear. Singapore’s Overseas-Chinese Banking Corp reported that the company had been able to confirm the safety of all their colleagues but closed their Yangon Branch temporarily in line with the guidance from the Myanmar Bank Association. Denso Corp, a Japanese auto-parts dealer’s spokeswoman stated that the company was struggling to reach staff, while POSCO International said it had advised its South Korean employees in Myanmar to work from home and the company is closely monitoring developments. Aeon, Japanese retail giant that has been planning to open a shopping Mall in Myanmar in 2023 stated that the company was monitoring the situation.

Some international investors had before the coup already grown wary over Myanmar’s military hostility against the Rohingya Muslim minority after the army has been accused of genocide and other war crimes against the minority. But many companies have remained in Myanmar and the recent coup now adds more pressure on these companies, especially those with military connections.

The Japanese Brewery company Kirin’s local partner in Myanmar, Myanmar Economic Holdings Public Company (MEHL), has been identified by the United Nations as a member of the Myanmar military and the company has since been reassessing its Myanmar venture. After Monday morning’s actions, the company stated that it was monitoring the situation, and still planned to take until the end of April to decide on its activities in Myanmar.

Bob Pickard, PR leader and communications counsel who worked in Japan for many years, said while speaking about Japanese companies within Myanmar that there was now a growing public relations risk. Japanese companies invested in Myanmar and especially those with military connections now need to be agile in articulating what these events mean for them, he said. Adding, “’Business as usual’ poses an acute risk of public relations disaster for any Japanese companies that are slow to condemn what has happened today.”

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