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Burmese trade unionist thanks Total

Burma-Total : A Burmese trade unionist thanks Total for acknowledging its 
use of forced labour

"Thank you, Total" declared Mr Than Lwin, a leading member of the 
Federation of Trade Unions of Burma (FTUB, the only --free and underground 
-- trade union in Burma) in Paris on June 19.

Mr Than Lwin, Administrative Executive Officer of FTUB, was responding to 
the petroleum group's recent acknowledgment of the use of forced labour 
linked to the construction of its pipeline in Burma. The trade union leader 
had been invited for a European information tour by several European trade 
unions affiliated to the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions 

Digipresse met him in the Paris offices of Danielle Mitterrand's 
Foundation, France Libertes, where he had been invited by Info-Birmanie. 
After the interview, Mr Than Lwin was to take part in a demonstration held 
by Total's French trade union members outside the oil giant's headquarters 
5 km west of Paris.

In his interview with Digipresse the Burmese trade union leader explicitly 
referred to a statement by Jean-Pierre Cordier, president of TotalFinaElf's 
Ethics Committee. On June 14, during a debate "For or against a boycott of 
Burma" organised by the leading Paris bookstore FNAC St Lazare, Mr Cordier 
had stated: "When a case of forced labour is brought to our attention, we 
make every effort to offer compensation".

The group's head of public relations, Mr Delaborde, attended the debate and 
did not deny his colleague' s statement. This public recognition, by a 
member of TotalFinaElf's management, of the use of forced labour linked to 
its Burmese pipeline construction will have long-lasting effects. This 
reaction by the FTUB leader is just a beginning.

Mr Than Lwin continued (listen to video -- see below), pointing out that 
this recognition will have to be considered in the appeal of Burmese 
plaintiffs against Unocal* pending in a federal court in California.

Re Unocal

*Unocal, Total's American partner in the construction and exploitation of 
the Burmese pipeline, is being sued by Burmese forced labour victims, and 
various human rights violations in an American court of justice. The case 
was initially brought against both partners, Total and Unocal. However in 
September 1997 the French government intervened with a Brief Amicus Curiae 
declaring the Los Angeles tribunal incompetent with regard to Total.
At present, although Unocal was found not guilty in first instance, 
conclusions by the judge have paved the way for the pending appeal procedure.

In Paris, beside Mr Than Lwin, one of the Burmese plantiffs against UNOCAL 
faced French journalists for the first time, and joined the demonstration 
with French oil union members.

Vincent Riou et Francis Christophe c digipresse, translated by Brigitte 
Revol (with light editing by David Arnott)

Original French and Real Video version on