Sunday, 14 December 2008

Dirty Thirty firms financing Burmese junta - more to the list

Mizzima News
13 December 2008

New Delhi (Mizzima) - The lack of effective sanctions on Burma's military rulers has allowed business firms to invest in the Southeast Asian nation providing millions in revenue to the regime, which faces international condemnation given its appalling human rights record, a campaign group said on Thursday.

Burma Campaign UK, in its new 'Dirty List' of companies which have business operations or links to Burma and provide direct or indirect financial support to the ruling regime, said it found 30 more companies financing the Burmese generals, making up the new list of 170 companies.

Mark Farmaner, Director of the BCUK said the list of companies proves that the international community has not imposed proper sanctions on Burma's military rulers to stop these companies from financing the junta.

According to the BCUK, these companies, which have business operations in Burma or has links, are providing billions of dollars to the military regime, which faces condemnation for its appalling human rights record.

While the European Union and the United States have imposed economic sanctions on Burma's military rulers, the lack of sanctions from other countries including Asian countries and the absence of concrete action by the United Nations has allowed business firms to continue dealing with Burma's rulers and providing the much needed revenue to it, the BCUK said.

"If there were sanctions, from the UN, from Asian countries and from the EU, these companies would not be able to operate in Burma," said Farmaner, adding the international community despite its rhetorical condemnation has seen to "No action".

"… and what you had from the UN is nothing, there are no UN sanctions at all," said Farmaner.

He added that although the UN has accused the Burmese military regime of committing crime against humanity by using slave labour, and for flouting the Geneva Convention by targeting civilians, "the UN has not implemented one single sanction against the regime, not even an arms embargo."

Human rights activists have accused business companies operating in Burma of not only aiding the military regime financially but also accused that their involvement has escalated rights abuses in areas where they operate.

Oil giants Total of France and UNOCAL of the US, which had deals with Burma's military government to explore and develop the Yadana and Yetagun gas fields in Southern Burma, were accused of indirectly being involved in human rights abuses perpetrated by the Burmese Army while guarding the gas pipelines connected to Thailand.

Johny Chatterton, Campaigns Officer at the BCUK, in a press release on Thursday said, "To those that claim investment aids the people of Burma, the evidence shows the opposite is true. As investment has increased, the human rights situation has deteriorated."

Chatterton added that new targeted sanctions against the Burmese regime should be implemented if the international community is serious about cutting the regime's financial lifeline.

Some of the companies that are named in the list include Toyota, Qantas, TOTAL Oil, Orient Express, Kuoni, TUI, Schlumberger, BBC Worldwide, Lonely Planet Daewoo, China National Offshore Oil Corp, and Hutchison Whampoa, owner of 3 Mobile.

The BCUK said the new companies added to the list are the result of new information and an inflow of new investment in Burma's gas and hydroelectricity sector. The list according to the group includes 34 companies in the oil and gas sector, 28 companies in the hydroelectricity sector and 57 companies in the tourism sector.

Farmaner, however, said, the list, which is based on research, fails to include all business firms financing the military regime, and is not a comprehensive list as information from the military-ruled country remains limited and difficult to obtain.

But he said, "These are the ones that we have concrete evidence that their involvement in Burma is directly or indirectly funding the SPDC," referring to the Burmese military regime by its official name – State Peace and Development Council.

Reporting by Solomon, writing by Mungpi

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