Uniqlo parent latest victim in Myanmar garment sector violence

Nikkei -- Mar 17
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.

Fires broke out at two of Fast Retailing's five contract factories in Yangon on Sunday night, the company said Tuesday. A company spokesperson suggested that the factories were targeted by arsonists. The company was still assessing the damage and there has yet to be any reports of deaths or injuries.

Myanmar accounts for as much as 2% of Fast Retailing's contract factories. However, the Japanese company has been increasingly using Myanmar as a production base. Since 2019, Fast Retailing has added two factories there.

The company now has six supplier factories in Myanmar to manufacture some of its GU branded products. If the turmoil in the Southeast Asian country is protracted, Fast Retailing will have to consider shifting production elsewhere.

Chaos has descended upon the country of 54 million people after peaceful protests against the Feb. 1 coup turned violent, leaving at least 180 people dead, according to opposition groups. The spillover of violence into Fast Retailing, which sells made-in-Myanmar clothes all over the world, bodes ill for Myanmar, which regards the textile industry as a driving force behind economic growth.

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.

- Nikkei