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Burma is the last straw for Pepsi

Bangkok (Reuters) - The United States soft-drink giant PepsiCo, which sold its stake in a Burmese venture last year following pressure from human rights groups, has pulled out of the country, a spokesman said yesterday.

A PepsiCo spokesman said by telephone from New York the company had severed ties with its bottler in Rangoon. Last April Pepsi sold its 40 per cent stake in a venture with Pepsi Cola Products Myanmar, following increased lobbying by US pressure groups. But the company still had an exclusive five-year agreement with its former franchise bottler, Pepsi Cola Products Myanmar.

Thein Tun, chairman of the Burmese company, was not available for comment. But after the initial pullout last year he said he had a firm bottling deal with Pepsi which would continue to supply syrup to make the soft drinks in Burma.

The final pullout comes after repeated calls by the Burmese democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi for global companies to desist from investing in Burma until the political and human rights situation has improved.

The US Senate passed a Bill last year allowing President Bill Clinton to impose economic sanctions on Burma if the political situation deteriorates.

Several companies, including the beermakers Heineken NV have pulled out of investments or stopped sourcing products from Burma since last year.