[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index ][Thread Index ]

World Rivers Review/ Feb. 1997/ Ca

Subject: World Rivers Review/ Feb. 1997/  Campaign Notebook/Burma

World Rivers Review
February 1997


Campaign Notebook

Although nearly all of IRN's work is focused on rivers, we also occasionally
help others do work that is not primarily about rivers, but does make a
strong connection between the environment and human rights. Recently, we
have worked on behalf of Nigerian activists fighting to save their forest-
and watershed - from logging; helped establish the 50 Years Is Enough
coalition, which is a network of groups working to reform the World Bank;
and given a jump-start to Project Underground, a group that monitors
extractive industries such as mining and gas. The following is a report from
Pam Wellner, whose work on issues in Burma is a project of IRN. 

Burma is ruled by an illegal military regime called the State Law and Order
Restoration Council (SLORC). In Burma's 1990 elections, more than 82 percent
of the parliament seats were voted in under the democracy party, the
National League for Democracy (NLD), led by Aung San Suu Kyi. SLORC
nullified the elections, refused the NLD power and placed most of its
representatives - including Ms. Suu Kyi - under arrest. 

Since 1988, SLORC has engaged in a steadfast practice of human rights
violations against its own citizens, such as arbitrary executions, forced
labor, torture, rape, forced relocation and suppression of freedom of
speech. It has been universally condemned by the US State Department and
Congress, the European Parliament, UN Human Rights Commission, the
International Labor Organization, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch. 

SLORC maintains its power by selling off the country's resources at a
furious rate. Oil reserves provide large sums of hard currency, which is
used to buy armaments to suppress the democracy movement and ethnic
nationalities, not foreign enemies. Burma, the world's largest supplier of
heroin, has increased production under SLORC's control. Sixty percent of the
illicit heroin in the US comes from Burma. 

The "Free Burma - No Petro-dollars for SLORC" campaign was spearheaded by a
call for help from ethnic nationalities living in the Tenasserim division of
Burma where foreign oil companies are developing gas pipeline projects. The
Karen, Mon and Tavoy Peoples are the victims of human rights abuses such as
forced relocation, forced labor, pillaging, rape and torture by SLORC troops
securing the pipeline area. 

The campaign primarily focuses on two different gas pipeline projects, one
operated by Total (France) and Unocal (USA), and the other by Texaco (USA),
Nippon Oil Japan), and Premier Oil (UK) in the southern Burma Tenasserim
watershed. The pipeline area will pass through some of mainland Southeast
Asia's last intact rainforests. This important  watershed, which is drained
by the Tenasserim River, is also the habitat for large animals such as
rhinoceros, tiger, elephants, as well as many endemic species. 

The campaign's objective is to escalate public attention and pressure on
these companies so that they withdraw their operations and investments from
Burma until a genuine democratic government is in place. The campaign is
part of the Free Burma Coalition, which pulls together the largest single
student movement today with environmental, human rights, religious and labor
groups. The Free Burma Coalition has been successful in pressuring companies
such Eddie Bauer, Columbia Sportswear, Apple Computer, Motorola and Heineken
to withdraw their businesses from Burma. In January, after an extensive
grassroots effort, PepsiCo announced its complete disinvestment from Burma. 

Aung San Suu Kyi, a 1992 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, now free from house
arrest, has asked that economic sanctions be implemented against the SLORC
regime. In support of Burma's democracy movement and ethnic nationalities,
the No Petro-dollars SLORC campaign urges US companies to disinvest from
Burma until a genuine democratic government is in place. 

For more information on this campaign, visit IRN's web page at www.irn.org