October 4, 2004

The Burma Campaign UK today condemned Comic Relief for entering into a partnership with delivery company DHL, which is in a joint venture with Burma’s military dictatorship.

“We are appalled that Comic Relief have entered into this partnership,” said John Jackson, Director of the Burma Campaign UK. “Red Nose Day will be Red Face Day for Comic Relief if they partner with a company funding Burma’s military dictatorship.”

Aung San Suu Kyi has asked companies not to do business in Burma, a call echoed by Prime Minister Tony Blair. Despite this DHL, a subsidiary of Deutsche Post, entered into a joint venture with Burma’s military dictatorship. The joint venture is believed to earn the dictatorship millions of dollars every year. The regime spends half its budget on the military and just 19p per person per year on health.

“Comic Relief partnering with DHL defies common sense,” says John Jackson. “On the one hand Comic Relief fund projects in Rwanda, supporting victims of violence where rape was used as a weapon of war. At the same time they partner with DHL, a company funding the regime in Burma, which uses rape as a weapon of war.”

“Comic Relief are allowing themselves to be used as a public relations shield by DHL, which is facing increasing pressure over its close relationship with Burma’s military dictatorship,” said John Jackson. “If DHL really cared about alleviating poverty they would not be in a joint venture with a regime that has impoverished its own people.”

The Burma Campaign UK first contacted Comic Relief about its relationship with DHL when Sport Relief partnered with the company earlier this year. The Burma Campaign met twice with Comic Relief, and sent several letters and emails explaining DHL’s close relationship with Burma’s dictatorship, and calling on Comic Relief to end the partnership. After months of delay Comic Relief have now written to Burma Campaign UK saying they are renewing the partnership for Red Nose Day.

“Comic Relief’s decision is not just unethical, it is irresponsible,” says John Jackson. “They do a fantastic job supporting good causes, but this partnership will harm the reputation of Comic Relief and they mustn’t allow that to happen. We don’t want people to stop giving to Comic Relief.”

DHL’s partner in Burma is the regime owned enterprise, Myanma Post and Telecomms. The joint venture began on 1st January 1997. It was a five-year contract. In 2002 DHL signed a new five-year contract with the regime. In 1998 the regime expelled Fed Ex, UPS, TNT and other parcel carriers. Only DHL was spared. Rivals and observers speculated that the reason was to increase revenue for the regime, as none of the other operators were in joint ventures.

Burma is ruled by one of the most brutal dictatorships in the world. Democracy leader and Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi remains under house arrest following an attack by a pro-government militia on her and her supporters in May 2003. Up to 100 of her supporters were beaten to death. Around 1,300 political prisoners languish in jail where torture is commonplace.

For more information contact Mark Farmaner, Media Officer, on 020 7324 4713.


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