July 14, 2005

As France prepares to celebrate Bastille Day on Thursday, 134 MPs have signed an Early Day Motion (EDM) calling on French oil giant TOTAL Oil to pull out of Burma. TOTAL Oil – the fourth largest oil company in the UK – is the largest European investor in Burma.

At the same time, Burmese communities across the world are protesting at French embassies accusing the French government of protecting the Burmese dictatorship by vetoing European Union sanctions against Burma in order to protect TOTAL Oil’s investment in Burma. Protests are taking place in Malaysia, USA, UK, Japan, South Africa and Korea. Exiles have also produced hard-hitting cartoons depicting French President Jacques Chirac dressed as Madame Liberty trampling on Burma’s democracy movement. (High res copies are available for publication.)

The EDM was tabled by Vera Baird MP, Co-chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Democracy in Burma. “TOTAL Oil’s business partner, Burma’s military dictatorship, is carrying out a campaign of ethnic cleansing against Burma’s minorities and is using rape as a weapon of war against women and children”, said Vera Baird.  “Its customers, its shareholders, and UK parliamentarians must be made aware of Total’s partnership with tyranny.”

John Bercow MP, the other Co-chair of the All-Party Group, also attacked TOTAL’s close relationship with the dictatorship, saying: “TOTAL Oil’s investment in Burma is propping up one of the most brutal and sadistic military dictatorships in the world.  In selling oil, the company is providing huge revenues for the regime to spend on the instruments of torture and repression.  The company has blood on its hands and it is an absolute scandal that it should support a terrorist state in this way.  Now that Premier Oil and British American Tobacco have had the decency to pull out of Burma, the time has come for a concerted campaign to persuade TOTAL Oil to follow suit.”

Text of the EDM:
That this House notes that Total Oil, the fourth largest oil company in the United Kingdom, is the largest European investor in Burma; is concerned that revenue from the gas project it operates in Burma has been estimated to earn the regime up to £240 million a year; further notes that the regime in Burma spends half of its budget on the military; supports Aung San Suu Kyi’s calls for companies not to invest in Burma; and calls on Total Oil to follow the example of Premier Oil, British American Tobacco and dozens of other companies, and withdraw from Burma.

The list of MPs who have signed the EDM can be viewed at:http://edmi.parliament.uk/EDMi/EDMDetails.aspx?EDMID=28240
French oil giant TOTAL is the fourth largest oil company in the UK, and the fourth largest oil company in the world.

A recent report on TOTAL Oil’s involvement in Burma found:

  • TOTAL is the largest European corporate funder of the regime. The Yadana gas project, in which it is a partner, is believed to earn the regime between $200m to $450m a year.
  • TOTAL’s presence in Burma influencing French, European Union and British foreign policy on Burma, as France vetoes effective EU sanctions in order to protect TOTAL.
  • Horrific human rights abuses committed in the region of TOTAL’s gas pipeline by pipeline security forces.
  • Arms sales closely linked to TOTAL’s gas project. The regime used its first downpayment for gas exports to buy 10 MIG jets from Russia.

For more information & copies of the cartoons, contact Mark Farmaner, Media Manager, on 020 7324 4713.

NOTE TO EDITORS

The current situation in Burma
Burma is ruled by one of the most oppressive regimes in the world. Political prisoners are routinely tortured and the rape of women and children is used as a weapon of war against ethnic minorities. Foreign investment has enriched the regime, which spends around half of its budget on the military. At the same time spending on health has fallen to the lowest of any country in the world, and 60 percent of children do not complete primary education.

Organisations supporting the campaign include:

  • Actions Birmanie (Belgium),
  • Afrika Azsia Forum (Hungary),
  • Asienhaus Burma Initiative (Germany),
  • ASN Bank (Netherlands),
  • Assistenza Birmania (Italy),
  • Australia Burma Council,
  • Burma Action Ireland,
  • Burma Bureau (Germany),
  • Burma Campaign South Africa,
  • Burma Campaign UK,
  • Burma Center Netherlands,
  • Campaign for Democracy in Burma (Finland),
  • Christian Solidarity Worldwide (UK),
  • Danish Burma Committee,
  • Fédération Internationale des Ligues des Droits de l’Homme (France),
  • Federation of Trade Unions – Burma (FTUB),
  • Finnish Burma Committee,
  • Friends of the Earth (England,
  • Wales, Northern Ireland),
  • Friends of the Earth Scotland,
  • Future in our hands (Norway),
  • ICCO (Netherlands),
  • Info-Birmanie (France),
  • International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) (France),
  • Federation of Workers’ Union of the Burmese Citizens (Japan),
  • Karen Service Team (Germany),
  • Ligue des Droits de l’Homme (France),
  • Milieudefensie (Friends of the Earth – Netherlands),
  • Multatuli Travel (Netherlands),
  • Norwegian Burma Committee,
  • Norwegian Church Aid,
  • Novib (Netherlands),
  • People’s Forum on Burma (Japan),
  • Polish Burma Solidarity,
  • The Peace People – Ireland,
  • Socialist Party (SP) – Netherlands,
  • SOMO (Netherlands),
  • Swedish Burma Committee,
  • Swiss Burma Association,
  • US Campaign for Burma,
  • World Development Movement (UK),
  • XminY (Netherlands)

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