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SHAREHOLDERS ASK COMPANIES TO STOP
Subject: SHAREHOLDERS ASK COMPANIES TO STOP DOING BUSINESS IN BURMA
SHAREHOLDERS ASK COMPANIES TO STOP DOING BUSINESS IN BURMA
New York, Dec. 14 (Bloomberg) -- Burma's release this summer of its most
famous dissident isn't deterring shareholders from demanding that PepsiCo
Inc., Texaco Inc. and Unocal Corp. stop doing business in the southeast Asian
Their complaint: The Burmese military junta is still violating human rights.
``Even though they released Aung San Suu Kyi, nothing else has changed,'' said
Simon Billenness, analyst at Franklin Research & Development Corp., a
socially-responsible investment firm in Boston.
The Burmese military junta, which chose its own name for the country --
Myanmar, has refused to relinquish power to the democratic opposition that won
82 percent of the vote in 1990 elections.
Aung San Suu Kyi, a Nobel Peace Price laureate and head of the party that won
Burma's 1990 election, was held under house arrest for almost six years before
she was released this July.
Human rights groups have reported that the government, called the State Law
and Order Restoration Council -- or SLORC --has murdered, raped and tortured
Burmese and minorities, driving hundreds of thousands of refugees into
Bangladesh and Thailand.
A United Nations report released earlier this month said the SLORC has used
forced labor to spruce up the country as it mounts a campaign to boost tourism
and attract desperately-needed foreign currency.
``Aung San Suu Kyi has said that foreign investment in Burma is inappropriate
at this time,'' said David Schilling of the Interfaith Center on Corporate
Members of this shareholder umbrella group, which represents 275 religious
organizations that together have $50 billion assets under management, have
filed these resolutions.
They've also filed resolutions at PepsiCo, Texaco and Unocal, as well as
Atlantic Richfield Co. and Halliburton Co. asking them to review and develop
guidelines that would stop them from doing business in any country where there
is ongoing violations of human rights.
A number of U.S. companies, including Levi Strauss Associates Inc., Federated
Department Stores Inc.'s Macy's, Liz Claiborne Inc., Spiegel Inc.'s Eddie
Bauer unit and Amoco Corp. have stopped doing business in Burma.
Barry Lane, a spokesman for Unocal, said the oil company was still reviewing
the shareholder proposals.
In a statement, Texaco said that it conducts offshore oil exploration in Burma
and if it does expand its business there, its ``presence could help build
economic conditions that encourage human rights advancement.'' Executives from
the other companies could not be immediately reached for comment.
Religious groups aren't the only shareholders who want companies to get out of
TIAA-CREF, the world largest pension fund, Harvard University and Williams
College all have backed anti-Burma proposals in the past few years, according
to the Investor Responsibility Research Center, which tracks proxy voting.
Pressure on these companies is coming from other sources as well. Santa Monica
voted earlier this month to boycott all companies doing business in Burma.
Similar resolutions have been passed by Berkeley, California and Madison,
And in Congress, Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) plans to introduce
legislation that would ban U.S. investment and trade with Burma, and suspend
our bilateral and multilateral assistance to countries, his press aide said.