PepsiCo have released a statement announcing the severance of all commercial links with Burma; “We are completing our total disengagement from the Burmese market. Accordingly, we have severed all relationships with our former franchise bottler, effective January 15, 1997. The bottler in Burma is taking appropriate steps to ensure that all production and distribution of our products are ceased by May 31, 1997.”
The Burma Action Group welcomes this decision which makes Pepsi the largest international corporation to date, to respond to a fast growing student and civic movement which actively opposes economic links with Burma’s military government. Nobel Laureate and Burma’s democracy leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi has urged economic sanctions against Burma and has said; “Companies such as Pepsi prolong the agony of my country by encouraging the present military regime”.
PepsiCo base their reason for withdrawal from Burma on assessment of current U.S foreign policy, however Pepsi’s previous unwillingness to address the problems posed by its Burma contracts, with its insistence that “free trade leads to free societies” had resulted in a worldwide student led boycott of Pepsi products. In 1996 supported by the Burma Action Group and the national student organisation Third World First, British students took up the “Get Pepsi Out of Burma” slogan; a growing number of student unions supporting a ‘selective purchasing policy’ banning the sale of Pepsi-Cola from vending machines and shops.
Yvette Mahon, Coordinator said; “this is a tremendous success for the Burma campaign here in Britain. Under military dictatorship Burma is not a country where responsible companies can conduct good business. Pepsi’s decision, like that of British Home Stores, Heineken, Carlsberg, Levis and others before them, gives clear indication that consumers are now aware that protest politics can, and do work, in persuading companies to behave ethically. Burma has become the South Africa of the 1990’s, the Burma Action Group predict that other companies will shortly follow Pepsi’s withdrawal.”
European Companies still in Burma include, Premier Oil, Total, Orient Express, the Burton Group and Unilever.