'Dirty List' Exposes Companies Supporting Regime in Burma
'THE DIRTY LIST'
COMPANIES SUPPORTING THE REGIME IN BURMA
Burma is a country ruled by one of the longest running and most brutal military dictatorships in the world; a dictatorship charged by the United Nations with a "crime against humanity" for its systematic abuses of human rights, and condemned internationally for refusing to transfer power to the legally elected Government of the country - the party led by Nobel Peace Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi.
In May 2003 a pro government militia attacked a convoy Aung San Suu Kyi was travelling in. Up to one hundred of her supporters were massacred. Aung San Suu Kyi escaped the attack, but was arrested by the regime.
She remains under arrest, her whereabouts unknown.
In response to calls from Burma's democracy movement, the Burma Campaign UK and other campaign groups around the world have been pressuring companies to sever business ties with Burma. Whereas in many developing countries foreign investment and trade can benefit the poor, in Burma it has the opposite effect. Instead it funds a brutal dictatorship, helping it to cling on to power.
The European Parliament, the British government, Burma's democrats, the US government and many other bodies and institutions recognise the role investment plays in strengthening Burma's regime. The British government actively discourages trade and investment in Burma and has called on companies to pull out. In July 2003 it asked British American Tobacco to pull out of Burma.
Concern about the role foreign investment plays in perpetuating the brutal regime is also widespread in the private sector. In December 2001 European investment funds managing over 400bn in assets issued a groundbreaking statement of concern about companies investing in Burma.
Over the last five years a large number of foreign companies have withdrawn from the country. The reasons cited for doing so include: difficulties in working with the regime, consumer boycotts, damage to company reputation and incompatibility with corporate values. These companies now include amongst others: Texaco, Adidas, Kuoni, Premier Oil, Triumph International, Levi Strauss, PepsiCo, Erickson, Heineken, Carlsberg, British Home Stores, Burton, River Island, Apple, Reebok and Compaq.
Companies remaining in Burma often attempt to justify their involvement by claiming that pulling out would harm ordinary Burmese people. Aung San Suu Kyi disputes this. Two days after her release from house arrest in May 2002, Aung San Suu Kyi stated "I don't think we have found evidence that sanctions have harmed the Burmese people, because they have been clearly limited and many of those who have suffered under sanctions have belonged to the business community. Naturally some ordinary employees have been exposed, but we have not yet found proof that large numbers of Burmese have suffered as a result of sanctions. Sanctions have a role to play because they are a strong political message. But also because they are an economic message."
Companies are attracted to Burma by wages as low as 17p a day, a compliant workforce where unions are banned, and limited health and safety laws which in any case are rarely enforced. The minimum working age is 13.
This list of companies supporting the regime in Burma (The Dirty List) mainly consists of British companies or foreign companies with a significant presence in Britain. It lists companies whose involvement in Burma provides financial or other support to the regime. Subsidiaries or parent companies of companies on the dirty list are automatically included on the 'Dirty List'. This 'Dirty List' is not a definitive list of every single company which operates in Burma. The Burma Campaign UK is not calling for a total trade boycott of Burma. We are calling for targeted sanctions which will cut the economic lifeline to the regime. We believe companies on this list are directly or indirectly helping to keep the regime in power.
This list is for use by campaigners, investment funds and individual investors. Many people will not wish to purchase products from companies linked with the regime in Burma. At present the Burma Campaign UK is co-ordinating boycott campaigns targeting Lonely Planet and tourism to Burma. We are not actively co-ordinating boycotts of all the companies on this dirty list, however we welcome people contacting these companies urging them to pull out. Action sheets are available at www.burmacampaign.org.uk.
We have also published a 'Clean List' of companies that have taken principled decisions not to operate in Burma, or that have pulled out in response to campaigns.
The Burma Campaign UK welcomes suggestions for additions to the Dirty List that we may have neglected to include.
PUBLISHED BY THE BURMA CAMPAIGN UK - 20 AUGUST 2003
Tel: 020 7281 7377
Fax 020 7272 3559
Media and Campaigns Officer
Burma Campaign UK
25/27 Bickerton Road
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