11 July 2024

Myanmar authorities have arrested a Japanese national working for retail giant Aeon for allegedly selling rice at artificially high prices, the junta said, with Tokyo demanding his immediate release.

Hiroshi Kasamatsu, director of Aeon Orange, which runs several supermarkets in Myanmar, was detained following an investigation into rice mills and supermarkets, the junta’s information team said late Sunday.  

Kasamatsu and three Myanmar nationals were suspected of breaching the reference price under the Essential Supplies And Services Law and “selling rice at higher price with the aim to make economic chaos”, it said.

It did not give details on when Kasamatsu was arrested or where he was being detained. 

“It is our understanding that the Japanese national in question is being interrogated at a police station in Yangon,” Japanese government spokesman Yoshimasa Hayashi told reporters in Tokyo.

A lawyer had met with Kasamatsu on Sunday and told Japanese embassy officials “that there was nothing wrong with him in terms of health,” he said.

“We… call on local authorities to release him immediately,” Hayashi said.

AFP was unable to reach Japan’s embassy in Yangon for comment.

A spokesperson for Aeon told AFP that Kasamatsu heads the commodity division of Aeon’s local subsidiary in Myanmar.

The price of rice, a staple in Myanmar, has more than doubled in recent months, according to traders, with state media blaming the El Nino weather phenomenon and market hoarders.

Conflict between the military and opponents of its 2021 coup has also disrupted the planting, harvesting and transport of rice, analysts say.

Aeon Orange runs several supermarkets in commercial hub Yangon.

The three detained Myanmar nationals work for local retail companies.  

Agence France-Presse//Photoo : Customers shop at a supermarket of Aeon Orange Co in Yangon//Kyodo