Razer’s co-founder and director Lim Kaling on Tuesday (9 Feb) announced that he would exit his investment exposure to Virginia Tobacco Company (VTCL) in Myanmar and sell his one-third stake in the joint venture that owns RMH Singapore Pte Ltd.
Mr Lim’s joint venture, namely Distinction Investments, was launched in 1993.
Distinction Investments has three shareholders: Myanmar citizen George Yin Soon, Castlebay Investments, and Bright Seasons.
Other than Mr Lim and Mr Soon — the latter also known as Kyaw Kyaw Htun — Ong Beng Huat, the brother of Singapore tycoon and hotelier Ong Beng Seng, is also the director of the joint venture.
Myanmar Economic Holdings Limited (MEHL), a military-linked conglomerate with a significant portfolio across many Myanmar’s industries from banking, tourism, real estate, transportation to gems and metals, holds the remaining 51 per cent stake in VTCL.
Reuters reported that Myanmar’s commander-in-chief Min Aung Hlaing –- who led the military coup which seized control of the government from elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi last week –- oversees MEHL.
In September last year, Amnesty International’s report stated that the military chief owned 5,000 shares in MEHL in 2011.
Following the military coup in Myanmar, it was said that cigarettes from Mr Lim’s company had been destroyed in a protest against the military and its businesses.
#HearTheVoiceOfMyanmar in cartons of military-produced cigarettes destroyed to protest #MyanmarCoup. Biz bankrolls the military regime. Small business owners are courageously taking action. #BoycottRedRuby #WhatsHappeningInMyanmar pic.twitter.com/E73LgD3aCm
— Justice For Myanmar (@JusticeMyanmar) February 5, 2021
“Lim Kaling must not continue business as usual with these murderous generals. According to the UN Fact-Finding Mission, Lim Kaling’s tobacco business aids and abets the commission of war crimes and crimes against humanity in Myanmar. So why has he failed to act?” it said.
The petition has garnered 851 signatures as of Tuesday.
In response, Mr Lim released a statement earlier today noting that he had been closely monitoring the situation in Myanmar and recent events there had caused him “grave concern”.
“As a result, I have decided to exit my investment in Myanmar, disposing of my one-third stake in the joint venture that owns RMH Singapore Pte Ltd. I am therefore exploring options for the responsible disposal of this stake,” he noted.
Mr Lim revealed that RMH Singapore Pte Ltd owns 49 per cent of Virginia Tobacco Company in Myanmar, adding that it is his only remaining investment in Myanmar, initiated nearly three decades ago under a very different circumstance.
“I have always been a passive minority shareholder with no direct involvement in the operations of Virginia Tobacco,” he added.
Though Mr Lim did not reference the petition in his statement, the activist group claimed a victory today.
“This does not mean RMH Singapore is ending its relationship with the military regime. More pressure is needed,” said Justice for Myanmar.