December 2, 2003

A new report by the Burma Campaign UK reveals most major high street retailers are now boycotting Burma.

The report – Coming Clean, British Clothing Retailers and Burma – names ninety-nine major high street brands that refuse to source clothing from Burma because of human rights concerns. Not one of the top-ten British clothing retailers will now source from Burma. Major companies on the clean list published in the report include M&S, Arcadia, Tesco, Bhs, Asda, Next, H&M, Littlewoods, House of Fraser and Debenhams.

Since launching a campaign against Bhs in 1996 the Burma Campaign UK has run a high profile campaign to persuade retailers and manufacturers to stop sourcing from Burma.  Burma is ruled by one of the most brutal dictatorships in the world, and clothing exports provide it with an important source of income.

“This is a huge success,” said Yvette Mahon, Director of the Burma Campaign UK. “Retailers deserve credit for acting responsibly, even if some may have done so more for fear of bad publicity than human rights concerns. By boycotting Burma, retailers and manufacturers have deprived the regime of millions of pounds.”

In a welcome move, several retailers, including Adidas, Clarkes, Levi Strauss, Littlewoods, Woolworths and Zara specifically cited human rights concerns as the reason for boycotting Burma.

Burma appeals to manufacturers because of its very cheap labour, ban on trade unions and lack of health and safety laws. Factory wages are as low as 5p an hour. A factory employee working 60 hours a week could earn just £3. This is below the United Nations definition of an extreme poverty income.
55 retailers have ignored repeated requests for their policy on sourcing from Burma. Today those retailers will receive a letter from the Burma Campaign UK giving them two further weeks to come clean on their policy. Those that refuse will be named and shamed on December 15th. “Customers have the right to know that when they are buying clothes they are not helping to fund the regime in Burma,” says Yvette Mahon. “We can only assume that those retailers refusing to reveal their policy on Burma have something to hide.”

In June 2003 Prime Minister Tony Blair backed calls for British companies to boycott Burma, telling the House of Commons:  “On trade, we are making it clear to British companies that we do not believe that trade is appropriate when the regime continues to suppress the basic human rights of its people.”

For a copy of the report or more information Mark Farmaner, Media Officer, on 020 7324 4713, or Yvette Mahon, Director of the Burma Campaign UK, on 020 7324 4714


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