S'pore anti-drone firm cuts business ties in Myanmar over coup

Their statement about withdrawing their business in Myanmar comes amidst a call for a boycott on Singapore brands and products in the country.

Matthias Ang | February 22, 2021, 02:48 PM

An anti-drone firm in Singapore has cut its business ties in Myanmar following the recent military coup, Reuters reported.

In response to media queries, TRD CEO Sam Ong said the firm had no plans to supply anti-drone products "until a lawful society is re-established."

In addition, the firm has cancelled a sale of such products to Yangon International Airport.

It will also not sell to Myanmar's military, Ong said.

Myanmar activists previously called the company out on social media for supplying the military with anti-drone guns.

A tweet posted by advocacy group Justice for Myanmar, however, was taken down on Feb. 22.

Sold anti-drone products to Myanmar's police

Prior to the coup on Feb. 1, TRD Singapore had sold anti-drone products to Myanmar's police force.

According to VICE Newsthe products included devices such as a drone gun which disrupted signals and forced them to land.

TRD was quoted as saying that such devices had no effect on humans and were certified in accordance with international standards.

In a statement on Facebook, the company also elaborated that within Myanmar, the authorities had used it for the following purposes:

  • Protecting Shwedagon pagoda from illegal drones since 2017,
  • Taking down malicious drones during the Pope's visit to Myanmar in 2018,
  • Protecting Aung San Suu Kyi during her visit to Shan state in the same year, and
  • Preventing drone from disrupting the country's Martyrs' Day in 2019.

Not the first decision by a Singapore party to withdraw business from Myanmar

TRD is not the first party from Singapore to have made the decision to withdraw its business from Myanmar.

On Feb. 9, Singapore businessman and co-founder of Razor, Lim Kaling, said that he will exit his investment in a cigarette maker in Myanmar, after the recent military coup in the country caused him "grave concern".

Lim said he would dispose of his one-third stake in a joint venture that owns RMH Singapore Pte Ltd, which in turn owns 49 per cent of Virginia Tobacco Company in Myanmar.

The rest of the stakes of Virgin Tobacco Company are held by Myanmar Economic Holdings (MEHL), one of two conglomerates run by the Myanmar military.

He added that it is his only remaining investment in the country, and is exploring options for the "responsible disposal" of the stake.

Myanmar protestors have called for the boycott of Singapore brands

TRD's statement comes amidst a recent call by protestors in Myanmar to boycott Singapore brands and products, such as Tiger Beer and Ya Kun Kaya Toast, on the grounds that Singapore is Myanmar's largest investor.

Feb. 13 also saw protestors rally outside the Singapore embassy in Yangon, with messages on the placards directed at the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS), United Overseas Bank (MAS), as well as Singapore-based news channel CNA.

The demonstrators called on the financial institutions to stop processing transactions for banks linked to Myanmar’s military, and urged CNA to report on their message.

Vivian Balakrishnan: Business and political decisions should be separated

Separately, Minister for Foreign Affairs Vivian Balakrishnan called on Myanmar's authorities to "exercise utmost restraint" in light of the burgeoning protests against the military takeover.

He added that he hoped for the release of detained political leaders, including Aung San Suu Kyi and Win Myint.

However, the minister emphasised that it is crucial to separate political and business decisions, and let businesses make commercial decisions based on their own interests, mentioning that businesses should be able to evaluate the risks for themselves.

He said:

"The current volatile operating environment, including a report that a foreign national had been arrested, will certainly affect the investment outlook and undermine business confidence.

Our own businessmen are aware of this downside risk, and I have no doubt that Singaporean businesses are re-evaluating their risk profile and their exposure to this market."

Vivian also highlighted that while Singapore is Myanmar's largest foreign investor, the major proportion of Singapore's investments in the country have occurred in the last five years, under the National League of Democracy's (NLD) civilian leadership.

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Top image collage from TRD Facebook