U.S. State Department Report Highlights Regime’s Brutal Record
The U.S. State Department’s 2007 Country Report on Human Rights Practices in Burma, released earlier this week, underscores the duty of multinational corporations in Burma to work against the pervasive human rights abuses of the military regime, as well as the need to stop any new multinational investment projects. The report documents the continued systematic human rights abuses committed against the people of Burma by the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) through the military, security services, and regime-sponsored militias. In particular, abuses associated with the brutal crackdown of pro-democracy protesters in September and October of 2007 are highlighted in the report.
The report notes that forced labor often occurs on infrastructure projects. The Burmese armed forces continue to use such labor, including forced portering resulting in “beatings, rape, lack of food and clean water, and mistreatment that at times resulted in death.” Other abuses include forced relocation and confiscation of property often accompanied by demands to build military infrastructure.
EarthRights International calls on all multinational corporations in Burma, especially those involved in such infrastructure projects, to use their influence with the SPDC to advocate for improved human rights. “These corporations, especially Chevron and Total, must use their significant influence to pressure the Burmese Regime to end their abusive practices or risk legal liability”, said Marco Simons, EarthRights International Legal Director. In particular, these corporations should condemn the ongoing human rights abuses, pressure the Burmese regime to immediately halt such abuses, and end their involvement in any abusive security practices. Corporations planning new projects in Burma, such as the Shwe gas development, should suspend all such projects.
Natural gas pipeline projects represent the largest sources of foreign investment and income for the Burmese regime. The largest such project to date is the Yadana Project, led by Chevron (U.S.) and Total (France); the Yetagun Project, led by Petronas (Malaysia), comes in a close second. Developed in the late 1990s, these projects continue to rely on the Burmese military for pipeline security, resulting in numerous abuses including widespread forced labor.
EarthRights International continues to document abuses in the pipeline region including killings, torture, disappearance, sexual violence, and various forms of forced labor. The companies involved in these projects have failed to condemn the Burmese regime’s abuses, and need to use their substantial influence to prevent human rights abuses, rather than profit from them.
By far the largest new gas project is the Shwe project, which is being developed by Korean companies Daewoo and KOGAS, and India’s ONGC Videsh and GAIL, and which may export gas to China. Because this project would invariably result in widespread human rights abuses and a substantial new funding stream for this brutal military regime, these companies should halt all involvement with the Shwe project immediately and refuse to do business with the Burmese military junta.