In a significant victory for the Burma Campaign UK (BCUK), lingerie giant Triumph International announced today that the company will close down its Burma-based manufacturing site. The announcement comes only two months after BCUK launched a campaign against Triumph – using striking images of models in barbed wire bras – in protest at the company’s support for Burma’s ruling military dictatorship.
Triumph joins a growing list of international corporations who – either voluntarily or under pressure have taken the decision to withdraw from Burma – the Arcadia Group, British Home Stores, C&A, Phillips, Levi Strauss, Apple, Pepsi Cola and Reebok amongst them.
Burma is ruled by an illegitimate military dictatorship – a regime that refuses to transfer power to Burma’s democratically elected National League for Democracy, led by Nobel Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi; a regime that has been charged by the UN’s International Labour Organisation with a ‘crime against humanity’ for the oppression and exploitation of Burma’s people.
Aung San Suu Kyi has urged the international community to stem the flow of foreign capital into the regime’s coffers – to help sever the lifeline that sustains military rule. Over the last 14 years foreign capital has served simply to strengthen – financially and politically – the very dictatorship that oppresses and impoverishes the people of Burma.
Yvette Mahon, Director of the Burma Campaign UK says: ‘Triumph have obviously been taken by surprise by the strength of feeling against doing business in Burma – having been inundated by customers pledging to boycott their products. This should serve as a warning to other companies operating in Burma – get out now or you could be next.’
Contact Yvette Mahon: 0207 281 7377 (w) or 07957 301 346 (m)
Notes for Editors
Burma’s military regime is responsible for:
Millions of people in forced labour often imposed with the threat of physical abuse, torture, rape and murder.
One and a half million internally displaced people, in part the result of ethnic cleansing campaigns against minority groups.
The detention of approx. 1500 political prisoners, many of them routinely tortured.
Thousands of refugees who have fled to Thailand, China, India and Bangladesh.
The production over the last decade of most of the world’s illegal opium and heroin.
One of the largest armies in Asia even though the country has no external enemies.
The closure of Burma’s universities for most of the last decade in an attempt to avoid civil unrest. A whole generation’s education and opportunity has been lost.
An impoverished population suffering widespread malnutrition, high under-five and maternal mortality and escalating HIV transmission rates.
Triumph’s Burmese factory is located on a military-owned industrial estate north of Rangoon. This is an area upgraded by the military in July 1996 reportedly using forced labour. A BBC Newsnight documentary aired in 1997 confirms the use of child labour on the site.
Triumph’s landlord is the Union of Myanmar Economic Holdings (UMEH). Members of UMEH’s Board are all, without exception, linked to the military. The Defence Ministry’s Directorate of Procurement (for weaponry) is a 40% shareholder and largely directs operations.
Almost 100% of Triumph’s Burma production is for export. Therefore in addition to rental payments to UMEH and commercial taxes on local sales, the company pays a 5% tax to the military authorities on all production for export.
Garments are one of Burma’s fastest growing and valuable exports. Low pay and the military junta’s ban on unions have undoubtedly helped draw manufacturers to the country. There is growing pressure on this industry to terminate operations in Burma.
In May 1997, President Clinton issued a federal order banning new investment in Burma by US businesses. Additional legislation has been proposed which seeks to ban the import of any article produced, manufactured or grown in Burma.
The European Union has not yet imposed sanctions legislation. However a number of significant European governments – notably the UK – do actively discourage trade and investment.