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Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Companies Supporting the Regime in Burma

"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.

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.

Since we launched this campaign in 2002 over 100 foreign companies have withdrawn from the country.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: Rolls Royce, PWC, Willis, Swiss Re, British American Tobacco, Adidas, 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 investing in Burma are not doing so because of an altruistic wish to help the people of Burma. They are there to make a profit, and are attracted by salaries of less than 25p 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.

Tourism companies attempt to justify organising holidays to Burma by claiming that they bring a positive force for change to the country and where possible they do not fund the regime. Again, Aung San Suu Kyi disputes this. “We have not yet come to the point where we encourage people to come to Burma as tourists” she told the BBC in December 2002. Furthermore the regime itself admits that it receives 12% of everything private tourists spend in country – and substantially more if holidaymakers stay in regime owned hotels.

This list of companies supporting the regime in Burma (The Dirty List) highlights companies whose involvement in Burma provides financial or other support to the regime. It 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 BCUK is coordinating campaigns against Lonely Planet and TOTAL Oil. We are not actively coordinating boycotts of all the companies on this Dirty List, however we welcome people contacting these companies urging them to pull out.

The Burma Campaign UK welcomes suggestions for additions to the Dirty List that we may have neglected to include. Please email us at info@burmacampaign.org.uk with any suggestions."

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International Campaign for Freedom of Aung San Suu Kyi and Burma

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