May 11, 2000

As Premier Oil prepares for its Annual General Meeting (AGM) a new report alleges that the Yetagun consortium which includes Premier Oil, was informed that increased numbers of Burmese troops, known for serious human rights violations, would be drafted into civilian areas to provide security for Premier’s gas pipeline. The pipeline supplying gas from Burma to Thailand provides Burma’s military dictatorship with desperately needed foreign currency. The report, based on first hand testimonies from several hundred victims, witnesses and Burmese army defectors from the pipeline region, concludes that abuses are a direct result of the exploitation of resources by Premier Oil, Total, Unocal and other foreign companies. Its most serious charge is that the Yetagun consortium was warned by its own consultants that human rights abuses were already occurring, and would continue to occur, as a direct result of allowing the regime to ‘secure’ their pipelines.
‘Total Denial Continues’, a report published by EarthRights International, contains evidence that in 1996 the Yetagun Consortium knew that: “The use of local people in forced labour, and atrocities against these people and any others suspected of links to the insurgents [were] well documented by Amnesty International, the United Nations and Human Rights Watch/Asia”. The report continues: “It needs to be recognised…that the local people have been and probably will continue to be subject to heavy levies of money and food from the military.” adding: “[An] immediate issue for the project is the fact that military security will not only need to be maintained at its current levels, but will have to be increased or relocated to enable the pipeline to be built. There is a potential for any continuation of the past harsh policies of the army to be blamed on companies involved in the project”.
The report comes at a time when Premier Oil claims to be looking at the social impact of its Burmese operations. “We believe we are blazing a trail that other oil and gas companies will follow”, says Premier’s statement on responsible business. However, ‘Total Denial Continues’ suggests that for thousands of people who live in the region where both Premier and Total have built pipelines the trail has been literally ablaze – leaving abuse and violence– forced labour, rape, torture, forced relocations, and even murder in its wake.
Premier Oil’s AGM will be held at Drapers Hall, Throgmorton Avenue, London EC2N 2DZ on Monday 15 May at 11.00am and will be met by protests from human rights campaigners supporting The Burma Campaign UK. Premier Oil has come under increasing pressure from Burma’s pro-democracy movement, the British government, shareholders and human rights groups to pull out of Burma. Burma’s pro-democracy leader and Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi has said: “Premier Oil is not only supporting this military government financially, it is also giving it moral support, and it is doing a great disservice to the cause of democracy. It should be ashamed of itself”.
John Jackson, a director of The Burma Campaign says: “What do foreign oil companies expect to happen when a military machine infamous for rape and murder is sent into civilian areas to protect a gas pipeline? Companies like Premier have to take responsibility for the results. The testimonies in this report speak directly to the executives, staff, shareholders, advisors and customers of Premier Oil and the companies involved—who can no longer claim ‘we did not know’.”
Note to Editors
1. Preview extracts of ‘Total Denial Continues’ by EarthRights International can be found at: http://www.earthrights.org from midday May 11, 2000.
2. Since 1995, EarthRights International co-founder and Goldman Peace prize winner, Ka Hsaw Wa and a team of field staff have been travelling at great risk on both sides of the Thai-Burma border to document the conditions in the pipeline corridor. ‘Total Denial Continues’ is based on first hand testimonies from several hundred victims, witnesses and army defectors interviewed from the pipeline corridor. These testimonies were collected and translated in literally hundreds of hours of interviews by EarthRights International field personnel between 1995 and 2000. Ka Hsaw Wa from the Karen minority in Burma and Katie Redford, a co-author of ‘Total Denial Continues’ will be in the UK to attend Premier’s AGM.
3. Premier replaced Texaco as the operator of the Yetagun consortium in December 1997. The consortium comprises Petronas of Malaysia, Nippon of Japan, the Petroleum Authority of Thailand (PTT) and the regime’s own oil and gas company the Myanmar Oil and Gas Enterprise, (MOGE). Premier’s share in the consortium is 26.67%.
4. Premier Oil was recently forced to withdraw its sponsorship of a conference on corporate responsibility held by the Institute of Social and Ethical Accountability because of unease amongst speakers from business and non governmental organisations and lobbying from The Burma Campaign UK.
5. Last month UK Foreign Minister, John Battle, called on Premier Oil to pull out of Burma saying: “I really expect Premier to do the decent thing without having to resort to legal pressure”.


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