Burma and Business

Articles related to the private sector and Burma, in the context of the government clamp-down on pro-democracy protestors in September 2007.  For previous and more recent articles and reports, please refer to our Burma section.

Español: Artículos sobre las empresas y la Birmania en español

Français : Articles au sujet des sociétés privées et la Birmanie, en français

PTT defends Burma business, Yuthana Praiwan, Bangkok Post, 6 Oct 2007
PTT Plc is proceeding with its Burma investments, despite international outrage over the Rangoon junta's anti-democracy crackdown. The company is legally obliged to continue its investments, said Chitrapongse Kwangsukstith, an executive vice-president...''Actually, we don't see a need to speed up the negotiations in the next few months, but we also don't think the deal should linger into next year, as the situation in Burma will stabilise,''...

[PDF] Statement of policy regarding gemstones mined in Burma (Myanmar), Cartier, 5 Oct 2007
Given the current crisis, and in accordance with our commitment to continuous improvement, Cartier has stopped buying gemstones which may have been mined in Burma (wherever those stones have been cut and exported from) until further notice...Cartier will be conducting random gemological analyses on gemstone shipments in order to evaluate the credibility of suppliers’ claims as to the origin of the stones provided.

Trade and Security Trump Democracy in Burma, Salil Tripathi, YaleGlobal, 4 Oct 2007
…Corporations doing business in Burma are beyond the reach of the activists. So activists should target the governments backing the junta rather than the companies active in Burma. For some time now, activists have targeted two oil companies, Total of France and Unocal, a Chevron subsidiary… Premier Oil, a British oil company, too, had faced pressure… But criticisms of companies or quiet lobbying by companies did not stop the Burmese junta… The underlying assumption behind campaigns and lawsuits is that Western firms have leverage to influence intransigent regimes. That assumption ignores how globalization has reshaped our world. The biggest investors in Burma are companies from China, Thailand, Singapore, and India…[also refers to Heineken, Carlsberg]

Chevron's links to Burma stir critics to demand it pull out, David R. Baker, San Francisco Chronicle, 4 Oct 2007
Chevron...is drawing harsh criticism for its business ties to Burma...Human rights activists are calling on the company to either leave Burma or persuade the country's military rulers to stop killing demonstrators...Chevron has denied any part in any human rights abuses.

Chevron Statement on Myanmar, Chevron, 2 Oct 2007
Chevron supports the calls for a peaceful resolution to the current situation in Myanmar in a way that respects the human rights of the people of Myanmar. Chevron's minority, non-operated interest in the Yadana Project is a long term commitment that will help meet the critical energy needs of millions of people in the region. Our community development programs also help improve the lives of the people they touch and thereby communicate our values, including respect for human rights.

Directors of Ivanhoe Mines deplore acts of violence against peaceful demonstrators in Myanmar, Ivanhoe Mines, 03 Oct 2007
On behalf of the management and employees of Ivanhoe Mines Ltd., we wish to place our voices on the record in registering deep concern about recent developments in Myanmar...We share the revulsion of right-thinking people everywhere against unwarranted assaults on Buddhist monks and civilians. History has shown us again and again that clubs and guns cannot permanently subjugate broadly-based popular support for fundamental freedoms that now are taken for granted by much of the watching world.

If you want to support the monks, then call Gary Player to account, George Monbiot, Guardian [UK], 2 Oct 2007
The businesses still working in Burma are having to scrape the barrel of excuses...[A]side from invoking the Chinese bogeyman, each of the [following companies] I talked to produced a different justification...: [Orient Express, Ultimate Travel Company, Rolls-Royce, William Garvey, Britannic Garden Furniture, Gary Player - includes the companies' statements]. [The following companies did not provide a response to George Monbiot regarding their Burma Operations: Asean Explorer, Pettitts, Aquatic, Audley Travel, Andrew Brock Travel]

Burma: Foreign Investment Finances Regime - Companies Should Condemn Crackdown, Human Rights Watch, 2 Oct 2007
Chinese, Indian, Thai, and other companies doing business in Burma should ensure their operations do not contribute to or benefit from human rights abuses, Human Rights Watch said today... “Companies doing business in Burma argue their presence is constructive and will benefit the Burmese people, but they have yet to condemn the government’s abuses against its own citizens,” said Arvind Ganesan, director of the Business and Human Rights Program at Human Rights Watch... Sales of natural gas account for the single largest source of revenue to the military government... [refers to investments by Total, Unocal (now Chevron), PTT Exploration and Production Co Ltd (PTTEP, part of PTT), Petronas, Nippon Oil, Daewoo International, Myanmar Oil and Gas Enterprise, Oil and Natural Gas Co (ONGC), ONGC Videsh (part of ONGC); proposed investments by Sinopec, China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC)]

Belgium reopens Myanmar humanity crimes probe against oil giant Total, AFP, 2 Oct 2007
Total on Tuesday faced a renewed Belgian probe into its alleged support of Myanmar's military regime… Belgium authorities are reopening a case brought by Myanmar refugees that Total was involved in crimes against humanity in their country, the refugees' lawyer said. Four refugees accuse the company of having used forced labour provided by the military regime to build a gas pipeline...[and] of having provided logistic and financial support in the 1990s to the military junta… [L]ast year the group was cleared of charges in France that it relied on forced labour to build the…pipeline after an out-of-court settlement… Total declined to comment on the Belgian case other than by saying it had "taken note" that it had been reopened. [also refers to Unocal (part of Chevron)]

[DOC] Statement by Sir Geoffrey Chandler regarding Total's presence in Burma, Sir Geoffrey Chandler, Founder-Chair, Amnesty International UK Business Group 1991-2001, former Director of Shell International, 1 Oct 2007 Total’s response to criticisms of its presence in Burma is in the worst tradition of corporate irresponsibility...Its claim to have ‘neither moral nor political authority’* to condemn the repression is contemptible. Political authority, no. But moral authority as a powerful corporate citizen of the country, yes...Total’s claim in its Business Principles that ‘it strives to uphold the principles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights’ is patently bogus. The company has two choices: to speak out or pull out. [Business & Human Rights Resource Centre invited Total to respond to this statement, but the company has not responded.]

[DOC] Total’s lobbying weakens EU stance on Burma sanctions, says Member of European Parliament - Total responds, 1 Oct 2007
Geoffrey Van Orden, MEP, Foreign Affairs Committee, European Parliament: “…the French oil firm Total...[have] been a sort of a lobby, if you like, for the [Burma] government. And so that sort of resistance has to be overcome.”’...As a response to the Honourable Geoffrey van Orden's statement on Total’s presence in Myanmar, we wish to answer that we believe...Boycotts and divestment policies simply hurt the people and delay the return of the targeted country to the international community...This opinion is widely shared by a great number of experts...Their position stems from historical analyses and not from any pressure supposedly exerted by Total on the French government, as Mr van Orden says.

Global firms provide lifeline to Myanmar's junta, AFP, 30 Sep 2007
Despite global outrage over Myanmar's bloody crackdown on dissent, multinational firms are still vying for the country's rich natural resources, throwing an economic lifeline to the military regime. [refers to Chevron, Total, China National Petroleum Corp. (CNPC), PTT Exploration and Production (part of PTT), Unocal, Nippon Oil, Daewoo Intl., Petronas, Gail India, ONGC, RITES, TCIL, Zydus Cadila]

India courts Burma oil business, Malaysia Sun, 29 Sep 2007
India’s Oil Minister Murli Deora, has been in Burma for the signing of oil and gas exploration contracts between state-controlled ONGC Videsh Ltd and Burma’s military rulers… Even as Burma’s military junta intensifies its crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrations, oil companies from all over the world have been jostling for access to the country's largely untapped natural gas and oil fields, which activists say are financing a repressive regime.

Libs makes money from Burma: Nettle, The Age [Australia], 29 Sep 2007
The Australian government is earning money from a military dictatorship in Burma that does not recognise human rights, The Greens say. Greens senator Kerry Nettle said Prime Minister John Howard has rejected trade sanctions against the south-east Asian country because Australia did not "have a lot of trade with Burma". "We now find that there is a Liberal Party-linked company [Twinza Oil] that is doing business with the Burmese military regime in oil and gas exploration," Mr Nettle said.

France and Total under fire for 'financing' regime, John Lichfield, Independent on Sunday [UK], 29 Sep 2007
The French government and France's largest company, Total, were struggling yesterday to contain growing criticism of the oil company's record in Burma. Total and the French government have rejected pleas from Burmese opposition and French trades unions and human rights group for the oil giant to suspend its activities in the Yadana gas field in southern Burma....Paris, and the company, argue that Total's presence is, on the whole, a force for good. Withdrawal would allow carte blanche for Chinese or other companies which would be "less respectful of ethical issues".

Daewoo says no plan to change Myanmar investment, Intl. Business Times, 28 Sep 2007
South Korea's Daewoo International Corp...will not alter its investments there following a violent government crackdown on protests..."We have gas fields under production and three other fields under exploration, which...can't be easily changed because of domestic issues," said Cho Sang-hyun, spokesman for Daewoo International. "Politics is politics. Economics is economics." The fields are being operated by an international consortium, with Daewoo having a 60 percent stake in the blocks. Other stakeholders include Korea Gas Corp. with a 10 percent stake, India's Oil and Natural Gas Corp. with 20 percent, while India's natural gas utility GAIL owns 10 percent.

[PDF] Letter from John J. Sweeney, President, AFL-CIO, to David O'Reilly, CEO of Chevron, 28 Sep 2007
I strongly urge you to speak out immediately against this week's brutal crackdown by the Burmese military... Chevron's silence...makes it difficult to take seriously Chevron's position that Chevron should remain in Burma because Chevron is a more responsible corporate actor than alternative possible corporate partners... Chevron also funds a trade association, the US-ASEAN Business Council, which lobbies the U.S. administration and Congress against the imposition of economic sanctions on Burma... We expect Chevron to state publicly its opposition to the US-ASEAN Business Council's position against economic sanctions on Burma or simply stop funding this lobbying group.
 
As Myanmar cracks down on protesters, oil companies keep up controversial ties, Canadian Press, 28 Sep 2007
Even as Myanmar's military junta intensifies its crackdown on pro-democracy protests, oil companies are jostling for access to the country's largely untapped natural gas and oil fields that activists say are funding a repressive regime... China - Myanmar's staunchest diplomatic protector and largest trading partner - is particularly keen on investing in the country... Total SA and...Petronas, currently pump gas from fields off Myanmar's coast... This week's bloody clampdowns...have escalated the activists' calls for energy companies to pull out... [In] the Yadana gas field...Chevron Corp. has a 28 per cent stake through its takeover of Unocal... "Far from solving Myanmar's problems, a forced withdrawal would only lead to our replacement by other operators probably less committed to the ethical principles guiding all our initiatives," Jean-Francois Lassalle, vice-president of public affairs for Total Exploration & Production, said... Chevron's interest in the Yadana project is "a long-term commitment that helps meet the critical energy needs of millions in people in the region," said Nicole Hodgson, corporate media adviser for Asia. [also refers to PTTEP (part of PTT), Daewoo International, China National Offshore Oil Corp. (CNOOC), China Petroleum & Chemical Corp. (Sinopec), ONGC Videsh]

Sarkozy for new sanctions against junta, Associated Press, on NDTV [India], 27 Sep 2007
France and Britain pushed for more international sanctions against Myanmar on Wednesday, saying the world must unite to punish the southeast Asian country for its crackdown against anti-government protesters... French President Nicolas Sarkozy...called for new EU and UN sanctions against the ruling junta... Sarkozy also urged French businesses - including oil giant Total - to restrain from new investment in the country. Total said Wednesday it is monitoring the mounting unrest in Myanmar and plans to continue its operations there.
 
Total says "it is difficult to condemn the ongoing repression because Total is not a moral or political authority":  Debate over Total’s presence in Burma [DOC], Arnaud Vaulerin, Libération [France], 27 Sep 2007
[The following summary translation of an article in French was prepared by the Business & Human Rights Resource Centre]
On Thursday, the French State Secretary for Human Rights, Rama Yade, defended the fact that France has not demanded Total’s withdrawal from Burma... The oil company confirmed on Thursday that it had not invested in Burma for about ten years... Jean François Lassalle, Total’s director of external relations for exploration and production, stated that “it is difficult to condemn the ongoing repression because Total is not a moral or political authority. Simply put, we hope that solutions that comply with human rights will be found, that discussions and negotiations” will be held so that “no violence will occur,” said Lassalle... [The] Prime Minister of the Burmese opposition in exile, Sein Win, accused Total of profiting, at least indirectly, from forced labour provided by Burma’s ruling military junta.
 
For Total, pulling out of Myanmar not the answer, James Kanter, International Herald Tribune, 27 Sep 2007
The French oil company Total said shutting its operations in Myanmar could cause even greater hardship in the country, despite a hardening attitude by France toward new investment amid a conflict between citizens and the ruling military junta... "We are convinced that through our presence we are helping to improve the daily lives of tens of thousands of people..." said Jean-François Lassalle, a vice-president for public affairs at Total... [Total's] joint venture [in Burma] earns the military regime hundreds of millions of dollars a year, according to...The Burma Campaign UK... Patricia Marie, a spokeswoman for Total, said Thursday that the company planned no new investments in Myanmar since completing its gas production facilities at...Yadana... "...far from solving Myanmar's problems, a forced withdrawal would only lead to our replacement by other operators probably less committed to the ethical principles guiding all our initiatives," Lassalle said.
 
[PDF] Letter from Ka Hsaw Wa, Exec. Director of EarthRights Intl., to Dave O'Reilly, CEO of Chevron, 27 Sep 2007
We urgently request that you use your presence in Burma to pressure the military regime to respect human rights... In your policy on corporate responsibility you recognize that your presence in the countries in which you operate is not neutral; you clearly state that you condemn human rights abuses; and you clearly state your belief that companies can play a positive role in contributing to the protection and promotion of human rights. If there were ever a time to put this policy into action in Burma, it would be now.
 
British investment in Burma, BBC Newsnight, 26 Sep 2007
[The BBC]...reported claims that the government has not stopped British companies trading with the Burmese regime and that Britain is the second biggest foreign investor in that country...[The foreign office says:] "The Burmese authorities...figures...are bogus and misleading. We believe the figure...includes planned investments dating back many decades by companies such as Premier Oil and British American Tobacco who have since withdrawn...in 2005, the DTI recorded UK foreign direct investment flows into Burma as negligible..."...[Response from Burma Campaign:] "...The £1.2bn estimate of UK investment...is a cumulative total...Given the significant investments made directly by companies such as Premier Oil, and by British subsidiary offices of foreign companies such as Total Oil, the figures do seem to be reasonable estimates. British American Tobacco channelled its investment via a subsidiary in Singapore...[also refers to Unocal (now Chevron), Shincorp]
[Real video] BBC Newsnight follow-up on UK companies' business with Burma [segment begins at 14:15], 26 Sep 2007
 
Firms that invest in Burma 'have paid for bullets', Terri Judd, Independent [UK], 26 Sep 2007
The Burma Campaign had a stark message for British companies trading in the country yesterday: "If there is a crackdown and the regime opens fire, you have paid for the bullets." The Campaign in the UK says up to 150 international companies, including many from Britain, trade with Burma – particularly in the travel, timber, gems and clothing sectors – making a total investment of £1.2bn every year... The campaign…alleged that businesses investing in Burma were not doing so for altruistic reasons, but because they were attracted by employment conditions that could be described as favourable to employers… The most notable British company on the list is the aerospace engine group Rolls-Royce. Last night Rolls-Royce defended its work in Burma…

[PDF] China in Burma: The increasing investment of Chinese multinational corporations in Burma’s hydropower, oil & gas, and mining sectors, Earth Rights International, Sep 2007