Britain’s Next on Thursday joined a growing list of European clothing retailers suspending new production orders with factories in Myanmar in the wake of February’s military coup.
Myanmar has been rocked by protests since the army overthrew the elected government of Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi on Feb. 1 citing unsubstantiated claims of fraud in a November election.
At least 536 civilians have been killed in protests, 141 of them on Saturday, the bloodiest day of the unrest, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP).
Myanmar is known globally for its yarn, fabric and textile products, and its garment industry is a key source of jobs.
“We’re not placing any more orders at the moment, that is a big step,” CEO Simon Wolfson said.
“We don’t source a lot of our product from Myanmar but most of the stock that we were sourcing from Myanmar…we have alternatives in place already for that stock in other countries.”
Wolfson said Myanmar provided less than 5% of Next’s total stock.
On Wednesday, Associated British Foods said its Primark fashion business had paused orders in Myanmar, following similar moves from Sweden’s H&M, the world’s second-biggest fashion retailer, and Italy’s Benetton Group.
On Monday Italian clothing retailer OVS said it would keep its “limited presence” in Myanmar but would stop its business with suppliers acting in a discriminatory way towards workers involved in rallies against the country’s junta.
Britain’s Marks & Spencer, which sources about 3% of its clothing from Myanmar, said it is continuing with its booked orders but is keeping future orders under review.
Last week the United States and Britain imposed sanctions on Myanmar’s military.