POSCO to terminate ties with Myanmar military joint venture

POSCO Coated & Color Steel Co., an affiliate of South Korean steel giant POSCO, plans to end a joint venture with a military controlled firm Myanmar Economic Holdings Public Co Ltd following criticism that its business has benefited military leaders who have violently suppressed pro-democracy protests there. POSCO C&C owns 70% of its joint venture with MEHL, Myanmar POSCO C&C.

POSCO C&C official Mr Min Ji-hyun said “The Company has informed MEHL it wants to buy the Myanmar firm’s 30% stake so that it can continue operating the venture with full ownership. MEHL is yet to respond to POSCO C&C’s offer.”

“Amnesty International’s Business and Human Rights Researcher Montse Ferrer said “POSCO’s decision to cut this tie is the latest blow to Myanmar’s military, which continues to impose its rule through murder and heinous human rights violations.

“Since staging a coup in February, the military has reportedly killed around 700 people, including dozens of children. Given the scale of POSCO’s operations in Myanmar, this announcement is a major step forward.

It increases the military authorities’ isolation, and adds to the growing pressure on other companies to end their business links with MEHL. POSCO is yet to announce the full details of its plans to disengage from its steel venture and whether it will continue to pay lease payments to MEHL.

“The company also has yet to address its broader footprint in Myanmar in other sectors. However, this is still a warning sign to all companies and investors who have business partnerships with MEHL. All of these businesses should do the right thing and responsibly cut these links immediately.”

On 24 March 2021, the UN Human Rights Council passed a resolution on the human rights situation in Myanmar by consensus, which highlighted that no company active in Myanmar or with business links to Myanmar should do business with the military (also known as the Tatmadaw) or one of their business entities, until and unless those businesses are restructured and transformed.

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