Sweden’s H&M, the world’s second-biggest fashion retailer, said on Monday it was shocked by the use of deadly force against protesters and military crack in Myanmar and that it had paused placing orders in the country.
Police and military have killed more than 50 people to quell daily demonstrations and strikes against a Feb. 1 military coup, according to the United Nations last week.
At least 38 people were killed in Myanmar on 1day (Wednesday) in what the UN described as the “bloodiest day” since the coup took place a month ago.
H&M has around 45 direct suppliers in Myanmar, it said on its website, and has sourced in the country for seven years.
“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,” Serkan Tanka, Country Manager Myanmar, said in an email.
“This is due to practical difficulties and an unpredictable situation limiting our ability to operate in the country, including challenges related to manufacturing and infrastructure, raw material imports and transport of finished goods.”
Two protesters were killed by gunshot wounds to the head in Myanmar on Monday, witnesses said, while shops, factories and banks were closed in the main city Yangon as part of the uprising against the country’s military rulers.
Tanka said H&M was extremely concerned about the situation in the country and that it was in dialogue with UN agencies, diplomatic representatives, human rights experts, trade unions and other multinational companies.
“These consultations will guide us in any future decision in relation to how we as a company can best contribute to positive developments in accordance with the will of the people in Myanmar,” he said.
Khine Mar Nwe, chairwoman of a popular garment factory workers association, says the oppressive conditions she worked under have taught her the importance of standing up for herself.
Her dogmatic leadership style has at times rankled her bosses who have threatened to lay her off.
Before the coup, Myanmar’s garment industry was booming thanks to an influx of investments from international fashion brands.
Labels such as GAP, H&M, Primark and Adidas had shifted production to Myanmar factories, and locally-manufactured clothing, footwear and handbags were worth three percent to the country’s gross domestic product.
But with the military back in power, the fate of the industry’s 700,000 workers is in doubt amid fears fashion labels could exit the country.
STOCKHOLM (Reuters) -(Reporting by Anna Ringstrom; additional reporting by John Geddie; editing by Niklas Pollard, N.Alam)