Toyota Motor Corporation announced on Oct. 12 that it has begun assembling automobiles in a plant in Burma, according to Reuters. The plant was originally going to open in February 2021 but was delayed due to the military coup. The opening of the plant comes as other international companies have suspended operations or withdrawn entirely from Burma. Foreign businesses still operating in the country have faced scrutiny from local and international human rights activists.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) stated that Toyota should ensure that human rights are respected as they conduct business in Burma. “Toyota should certainly refrain from doing business with Myanmar military owned conglomerates … as well as their subsidiaries,” said Teppei Kasai, the HRW Asia program officer.
Toyota claimed that its business in the country would contribute to economic development in Burma. “We believe this meets our initial intention to contribute to the industrial development of Myanmar … and to support our employees and their families’ lives,” the Japanese automobile manufacturer said. Japan has taken a softer tone with the Burmese junta compared to western democracies. Hideo Watanabe, chair of the Japan-Myanmar Association and member of Japan’s ruling party, enjoys a cozy relationship with junta leader Min Aung Hlaing and has reportedly promoted Japanese investment in the crisis-hit country.