The Burma Campaign UK today launches a campaign calling on people to post pineapples to Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett to highlight what it calls ‘farcical’ European Union sanctions against Burma. The EU has banned European companies from investing in a pineapple juice factory in Burma, but not taken action to stop investment in Burma’s lucrative oil, gas or timber sectors, where the regime earns most of its revenue.
“If the European Union can’t get its act together to impose effective sanctions against the regime in Burma, then the UK should go it alone and unilaterally ban new investment” said Yvette Mahon Director on the Burma Campaign UK.
Earlier this week a Dispatches documentary on Channel 4 exposed the role the UK has played in funding the regime in Burma. The UK is ranked as the 2nd largest source of approved investment in Burma, estimated at a total of 1.4 billion dollars since 1988, largely because companies from all over the world have used UK dependent territories to channel investment to Burma. They are attracted to dependent territories by tax incentives and the lack of transparency. In addition, UNOCAL used the fact that it had invested in Burma via Bermuda to try to avoid being sued in US courts over human rights abuses. Even French oil giant Total Oil used UK dependent territories to invest in Burma. The USA banned new investment in 1997.
Total is the largest European investor in Burma. It invested via the Bermuda Islands – a UK territory. The gas project it manages is believed to earn the regime up to 450 million dollars a year. The regime spends around half its budget on the military. Total Oil is currently considering new investment in Burma, despite facing widespread condemnation for its close relationship with Burma’s military dictatorship.
“We must no longer allow UK territories and UK companies to be involved in investing in Burma,” said Yvette Mahon. “Burmese people are being tortured and killed as a direct result of this kind of investment.”
Burma’s democracy movement has called for targeted economic sanctions against the regime in Burma. Revenue from foreign investment and trade has helped keep the regime in power, while spending on health and education has fallen.
The Burma Campaign UK has set up a special webpage featuring a dancing pineapple with a ‘Sanctions now’ placard, where people can find out more information about the campaign. Pineapples – fresh, tinned or dried – can be sent direct to the Foreign Secretary at: Rt Hon Margaret Beckett MP, Foreign Secretary, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, King Charles St, London SW1A 2AH.
For more information contact Mark Farmaner, Media & Campaigns Manager, on 020 7324 4713.