Global Fashion brands denounce the Myanmar coup

Global Fashion brands

Global Fashion brands may shift their current and upcoming orders from Myanmar in response to denounce the Myanmar Military coup as Myanmar garment workers called on global brands to condemn the coup.

Foreign firms have been urged to suspend operations in Myanmar to put pressure on the military junta to end its bloody takeover.

Japan’s Kirin Holdings Co is winding up a beer alliance with a military-linked company after coming under pressure from activist groups.

“We are deeply concerned about the current situation in Myanmar and have started conversations with international stakeholders, including United Nation agencies and NPOs and other global companies on this matter,” Fast Retailing said in a statement. TOKYO (Reuters) 

Violence between security forces and protesters has threatened Myanmar’s status as a hub for clothing manufacturing, with the Japanese parent of Uniqlo reporting two supplier factories have been set on fire in the latest unrest to rock the country’s garment industry.

On the other hand Two Chinese garment factories in Myanmar were set on fire on Sunday (March 14) noon, according to CGTN.

Myanmar-garments
Two Chinese garment factories in Myanmar set on fire

According to reports, more than 20 people on motorcycles set fire on the two Chinese-invested garments in Yangon’s industrial area. They had iron rods, axes and flammable materials in their hands. The assailants beat security guards and set fire on the entrances and warehouses of the two factories.

One of the two garment factories is Chinese-funded while the other is a China-Myanmar joint venture.

The world’s large apparel brands, which have increased production in Myanmar since the country embraced democracy, may stop placing orders with the country’s plants. In fact, some apparel companies have already stopped business there.

Other companies have been more forceful in their response. For instance, Hennes & Mauritz and The Benetton Group have suspended all new orders from factories in Myanmar.

“Although we refrain from taking any immediate action regarding our long-term presence in the country, we have at this point paused placing new orders with our suppliers,″ H&M said in a statement. “This is due to our concern for the safety of people and an unpredictable situation limiting our ability to operate in the country.”

OVS of Italy said that it has halted deals with manufacturers which discriminate against Myanmar demonstrators protesting against the military.

Spanish brand Mango said it would work with its trade and union partners, globally and locally in Myanmar, to ensure there’s no retaliation against any factory worker or union leader exercising their civil or union rights.

Moe Sandar Myint, chairwoman of the Federation of Garment Workers in Myanmar who organised small strikes on factory floors that later moved to the streets, said brands aren’t doing enough to help workers. She wants to see “concrete action”.

Nearly 70 per cent of the garment factories in Myanmar are owned by foreigners, according to the European Chamber of Commerce in Myanmar, and a good chunk of them are Chinese-owned. International brands using the factories don’t directly hire the workers, often depending on a web of contractors and sub-contractors to produce goods for them.

But companies have “an enormous amount of influence in the industry”, Tillett-Saks said. “They hold all the power over the supplier.”

After Myanmar shifted to civilian rule in 2011, the international apparel companies rushed to set up production in the country, drawn to its cheap labor and large workforce. The World Trade Organization data shows that clothing exports from Myanmar reached $5 billion in 2019, five times the amount in 2014.

Meanwhile, China’s clothing exports dropped 18% during the same period. Myanmar’s 400% growth dwarfs the 35% increase for Bangladesh, the world’s second-largest clothes exporter, and the 53% rise for third-ranked Vietnam.

Japanese apparel companies joined foreign peers in migrating to Myanmar. According to the Japan Textile Importers Association, Japan imported 113.4 billion yen ($1 billion) worth of clothing from Myanmar in 2019, up 12% from a year earlier and a fourfold increase from 2011, the year of transition to civilian rule. Myanmar was the seventh-largest clothing exporter to Japan in 2019.

Other Japanese apparel companies are also beginning to feel the effect Myanmar’s upheaval. Shimamura, an apparel retail chain, suffered a delay in deliveries from Myanmar and is considering alternative production in China or other Southeast Asian countries. Wacoal, a leading underwear maker, has suspended operations at a Myanmar plant.

Adastria, which sells casual clothes, faces two- to three-week delays in delivery from contract plants in Myanmar due to disruption in production and logistics. The company plans to temporarily halt local production next month while it considers moving production to Vietnam, Indonesia and China or Bangladesh.

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