Garment, footwear and accessories account for one-third of Myanmars total exports

Garment, footwear and accessories account for one-third of Myanmar's total exports

Swedish fashion retailer H&M Group has paused placing new orders with its suppliers in Myanmar as violence continues to unfold across the country amid the military coup.

However, in a statement shared with just-style, the company emphasised it has refrained "from taking any immediate action regarding our long-term presence in the country."

The retailer said it is "extremely concerned" about the escalating situation in Myanmar and shocked by the use of deadly force used against protestors.

"Having been present in the country for the last seven years, the latest developments deeply sadden us," said Serkan Tanka, country manager in Myanmar.

"We are 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. While we value any guidance on this matter, we fully recognise the complexities for the international community, trade unions and other stakeholders in balancing different aspects to ensure that the people in Myanmar are not negatively affected. 

"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. 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. We only pause placement of new orders and we take full delivery of and pay for all already placed orders."

Following weeks of worsening political tensions in the Southeast Asian country after disputed elections in November 2020, the military seized power on 1 February, just hours before the first sitting of the new parliament.

A state of emergency has been imposed for up to one year, state counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi and president U Win Myint have been detained, and communications in much of the country have been cut off.

A report published yesterday (8 March) by Reuters claims police and military have killed more than 50 people to quell daily demonstrations and strikes against the coup

Fashion brands have been urged to publicly condemn the coup but to maintain dialogue and honour all existing commitments made to factories.

H&M Group is a signatory to statements issued by members of the ACT (Action, Collaboration, Transformation) initiative on living wages, and by the Myanmar Centre for Responsible Business last month – which both expressed deep concern over the coup.

Garment, footwear and accessories are Myanmar's three largest export sectors, accounting for one-third of total exports. Exports of garments, footwear, and accessories have more than tripled since 2016 to US$5.8bn, with the sector also a huge source of employment. The nearly 600 factories in the country employ around 500,000 workers.

just-style has been following the fallout from the coup at the beginning of February: Clothing sector likely major loser from Myanmar coup.