August 19, 2008

Two major insurers are pulling out of Burma only three weeks after the Burma Campaign UK published its report, Insuring Repression, highlighting how insurance companies have facilitated the flow of billions of dollars to the Burmese regime. The companies, XL and Chubb, separately announced the withdrawals in statements to the campaign.

XL Capital stated that the company now has a policy that it will no longer “seek to insure Burmese companies or operations of companies in Burma.” XL Capital owns one of the 12 largest reinsurers in the world, XL Re, and a large Lloyd’s of London syndicate, XL London Market, which has in the past insured a Burmese regime owned airline. XL’s involvement in Burma was originally exposed by Reinsurance Magazine.

Chubb Corporation told the campaign that after conducting an internal review it “bars its member companies from maintaining an office in Burma, from directly writing insurance in Burma or providing insurance into Burma from outside the country”. Chubb is one of the biggest insurers in the US and was shamed after the campaign obtained company documents showing it maintained an office in Burma.

“This is a major embarrassment to Lloyd’s of London, they have never taken this issue seriously and don’t see any problem with helping to finance Burma’s brutal dictatorship,” said Johnny Chatterton, Campaigns Officer at the Burma Campaign UK. “We know that at least two other members of the Lloyd’s market are involved with Burma. Lloyd’s is increasingly isolated and is seeing its reputation damaged as more and more insurers take an ethical stance against doing business with a regime that routinely persecutes, detains, tortures and murders those who want human rights and democracy”.

Maung Maung, General Secretary of the Federation of Trade Unions Burma said “Insurance companies are facilitating trade and investment in Burma, filling the pockets of the generals and helping keep them in power. We welcome the news that XL and Chubb have pulled out, and will no longer help to fund the regime, but we strongly condemn all insurers that remain involved in our military junta run country. They help keep the generals in power, and condemn Burma’s 50 million people to lives of poverty and fear. There is no excuse for the likes of Lloyd’s of London being involved, they are helping to fund a brutal dictatorship.”

Lloyd’s of London has not officially responded to the report, but has admitted that its members are active in the Burmese shipping and aviation sectors. David Gitting, Chief Executive of the Lloyd’s Market Association, which represents all managing agents at Lloyd’s, stated last week that without UK government sanctions, there “is no reason for U.K. based insurers to pull out of that market.” This defies the policy of the British Government which states “The UK Government discourages trade and investment with Burma.” Insurance is vital to trade and investment with Burma.

For more information contact Johnny Chatterton +44 (0) 20 7324 4714 or emailjohnny.chatterton@burmacampaign.org.uk

Notes For Journalists:
Burma is ruled by one of the most brutal dictatorships in the world. In May democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi had her detention without trial extended. She has now been under arrest for more than 12 years. Rape is used as a weapon of war against ethnic minorities and over 2000 political prisoners languish in jail, many subjected to horrific torture.

Burma’s democracy movement has called on companies not to invest in Burma, pointing to the fact that foreign investment and trade has enriched the regime, but not benefited most ordinary Burmese people. The regime spends around half its budget on the military and just 1.4% on education. Insurance is vital for the companies that invest in Burma and give the regime millions of dollars everyday.

British Government policy on Burma
The UK Government does not encourage trade, investment or tourism with Burma. It does not offer any commercial services for companies wanting to do business with Burma, or financial support for trade promotion activities or the organising of trade missions.

About the Insurance Campaign
The Insurance Campaign aims to make Burma less attractive to foreign investors by making it more expensive and more difficult for them to insure their operations in Burma. It is part of a carefully targeted policy designed by Burma’s democracy movement to cut the junta’s economic lifeline, this will decrease the amount of money the regime can spend on arms and increase pressure on the regime to negotiate with Burma’s democracy movement.

About the Burma Campaign UK
The Burma Campaign UK has campaigned for human rights and democracy in Burma since 1991. It has a history of successful campaigns, over the last six years over 100 companies have withdrawn from Burma following pressure from the Burma Campaign UK including PwC, Rolls Royce and DHL.

 


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