Subject: [cwj 21] Corporations Accused of Complicity in Abuses in Myanmar
From: Corporate Watch in Japanese <>
Date: Tue, 23 May 2000 12:33:31 -0700
Seq: 21

Japan is one of the largest investors in Myanmar, in the name of
"constructive engagement".  There are campaigns against Nisseki and Suzuki
to pull out of Burma- check out
(in Japanese only) for more information on these campaigns and the groups
to contact for more info

RIGHTS: Corporations Accused of Complicity in Abuses in Myanmar

By Danielle Knight=20

WASHINGTON, May 22 (IPS) - Forced labour and other human rights abuses
associated with building natural gas pipelines in Myanmar (formerly known
as Burma) continue with the knowledge of US and European corporations which
partially own and manage the projects, according to a new report released
here Monday by Earthrights International (ERI).=20

''The abuses are not incidental or unrelated to the pipelines - they are a
direct result of western companies' investments,'' says the report, 'Total
Denial Continues.'=20

Three prominent companies have invested in the region to construct
pipelines: Union Oil of California (UNOCAL), and Total, a French company
are involved in the Yadana pipeline. And the British company, Premier Oil,
is part of a consortium building the Yetagun pipeline.

The 180-page report is based on first-hand testimony gathered between 1995
and 2000 from several hundred villagers who claim to either be victims or
witnesses - including Burmese army deserters - to recent abuse.=20

Ka Hsaw Wa, a member of Burma's Karen ethnic minority, who is co- director
of ERI, gathered the interviews which document hundreds of recent cases of
rape, execution and confiscation of property carried out by the military.=20

Most of the testimony revolves around the Yadana pipeline which was
completed early this year and has already begun operations.=20

The 1 billion dollar project, operated by a consortium that includes
UNOCAL, Total and the government of Myanmar, carries natural gas through
Burma to Thailand.=20

Many people interviewed from Karen, Tavoyan and Mon villages in the
pipeline regions say the area was never heavily militarised before
construction began. Now they claim they are victimised by an army which has
been condemned for its abuses by the US State
Department, the United Nations, and many other organisations.=20

''I wish the foreign companies would go back to their country ... so the
troops will go back to Rangoon,'' says one Tavoyan villager interviewed in

The report also examines reports of forced labour and other rights abuses
surrounding the 70 million dollar Yetagun gas pipeline. Premier Oil, acting
as operator of the project, is part of a consortium currently developing
off-shore gas reserves in the Yetagun field in the Gulf of Martaban.=E1
Yetagun ''is as much a problem as the Yadana project, and Premier has
surely benefited as much from these crimes as have Total and UNOCAL,'' says
the report.=20

"Total Denial Continues" also includes company documents never before made
public that ERI says prove that corporations knew that forced labour was
being employed on their projects.=20

''The companies knew from their own consultants that abuses were occurring
surrounding their projects, yet they continued involvement,'' according to
the report.=20

All three companies strongly deny accusations of complicity in rights=

Charles Jamieson, the Chief Executive of Premier Oil, says he disagrees
with activists who want to isolate Myanmar. ''We believe in constructive
engagement rather than closing the country off to the world,'' he says.=20

John Imle, former president of UNOCAL, admits that when the project was
first being constructed, the military used conscripted labour for porterage.=

''I know that in the early days of this project, military units in the
areas of the project were using conscripted labour,'' he said. But he says
this does not happen anymore.=20

''When I'm visiting these people in these villagers they say, 'We're glad
you're here, please stay,'' says Imle, referring to health and education
facilities provided by the company.=20

In 1997, United States federal court agreed to hear a lawsuit brought
against Unocal and Total by 14 victims for alleged human rights abuses
associated with the Yadana project.=20

Federal Judge Richard A. Paez declared that transnational corporations and
their executive officers can be held legally responsible for violations of
international human rights law in foreign countries, and that US courts
have the authority to adjudicate such claims.=20

The decision, contained in a 38-page written order, calls some of Unocal's
arguments ''inexplicable'' and ''hard to imagine.''=20

Plaintiffs in the case are represented by a team of lawyers from ERI, the
New York-based Center for Constitutional Rights, Hadsell & Stormer and the
Law offices of Paul Hoffman. The case is seen as ground breaking since it
lays the foundation for victims in other countries to sue US corporations
for human rights violations.=20

Since 1994 activists have been trying to get company shareholders to
approve resolutions that would force UNOCAL to review its operations in
Myanmar. But at each shareholder meeting, the proposals have only received
a small percentage of the vote.=20

With their protest outside UNOCAL's shareholder meeting near Los Angeles
Monday, human rights and religious groups, and pro-democracy Burmese
organisations hope to again draw attention to the issue.
Corporate Watch in Japanese
Transnational Resource and Action Center (TRAC)
P.O. Box 29344
San Francisco, CA 94129 USA
Tel: 1-415-561-6472
Fax: 1-415-561-6493
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