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ALERT: Ross Dress-For-Less Sells Bu
Subject: ALERT: Ross Dress-For-Less Sells Burma's Dirty Laundry
I will post any reply to the letter below... Meantime, if you'd like to express
concern about the "Made in Myanmar" product sold at Ross, Ron Chereskin Studio
men's briefs manufactured by Chano Int'l Inc., you can call Ross CEO Norman
Ferber at 1-800-BUY-ROSS.
L.A. Campaign for a Free Burma
February 15, 1996
Mr. Norman Ferber, CEO
8333 Central Avenue
Newark, CA 94560
Dear Mr. Ferber:
As clothing retailers go, Ross is to be commended for providing quality goods at
low prices. I am writing regarding one of these products.
Last night whilst shopping at your Venice, California outlet, I came across a
product from Ron Chereskin Studio, manufactured by Chano International, Inc.
[Ref. RN 61673] -- Men's Briefs produced in Burma (Myanmar). I regret to inform
you that Burma-made textiles are the subject of international boycotts for the
o Burma's textile factories are owned in part by a brutal military junta, the
ruling State Law and Order Restoration Council (SLORC). According to recent
United Nations and human rights reports, SLORC continues to commit wide-scale
human rights violations, including arbitrary arrests and summary executions,
torture, forced labor, forced portering, and suppression of freedom of speech and
freedom of association, and violations of basic property rights. SLORC is
holding thousands of political prisoners, most recently detaining members of the
party voted into power in 1990, the National League for Democracy (NLD).
o Levi-Strauss & Co. have stopped sourcing from Burma, finding it "impossible"
to do so "without supporting the military regime and its pervasive violations of
o The U.S. has no ambassador to Burma, but the last one there, Burton Levin,
said that the SLORC is "so single-minded that whatever [income] they obtain from
foreign sources they pour directly into the military." SLORC's only enemies are
the people of Burma who want democracy and the right to self-determination.
o Macy's has stopped sourcing from Burma, finding it impossible to operate
there without potential to violate the U.S. Corrupt Foreign Practices Act
(bribery is so pervasive in SLORC's business relations as to be systematic).
o Citing a growing awareness campaign about the situation in Burma, Eddie Bauer
has stopped sourcing from Burma. Liz Claiborne has also withdrawn.
o After Petro-Canada canceled a joint venture with the SLORC, Petro-Canada
executive John Ralston Saul referred to SLORC leaders as "thugs, criminals and
o Due to human rights concerns, Reebok has committed to not doing business in
o National League for Democracy leader and Nobel Peace laureate Aung San Suu
Kyi was held under house arrest for six years. Following her June 1995 release,
Suu Kyi has said "we are no where near Democracy yet" and that foreign investors
should "jolly well wait" before jumping into business ventures in her country.
o Included in the mission statement of the Free Burma Coalition, which now has
more than fifty (mostly student-based) participating organizations, is a
commitment to "fully support Aung San Suu Kyi" and the drive to restore Burma to
In addition to these facts, women's organizations are increasingly concerned
about the SLORC's use of gang rape in the bordering ethnic regions to humiliate
and "ethnically cleanse" groups opposed by the SLORC.
I'm certain that your company had no idea about the implications of selling
clothes made in Burma. Ross is in a special position to make things a little
easier on the people of Burma by canceling all contracts and future orders from
Ron Chereskin Studio and Chano International until these companies withdraw from
Burma. This shouldn't have a great financial impact on Ross, which carries only
a couple of clothing items from this company; but it will have a tremendous
impact on the SLORC and may in fact lead to a lessening of human rights
violations and swifter recognition of the NLD, which represents more than seven
million voters in Burma.
Already, the cities of Berkeley, Madison and Santa Monica have passed tough South
Africa-style selective contracting measures preventing them from doing business
with companies involved in Burma. Ross ought to enact a similar policy.
Frequently, a clothing wholesaler will respond to inquiries about sourcing from
Burma by claiming that factory conditions there "meet or exceed international
standards". Whether or not this is true, it has nothing to do with our position
that supporting the SLORC in any way is reprehensible. Dozens of Nobel laureates
Burmese members of my group in Los Angeles would like to meet with you. We can
also arrange a meeting with concerned people in the San Francisco Bay area,
closer to your headquarters. In the coming days, I will be notifying the other
Free Burma organizations of Ross' sales of Burma-produced textiles by copy of
this letter. The only thing that binds these organizations is a commitment to
halt U.S. investment in SLORC-controlled Burma, so it will be up to each group to
respond as it sees fit.
In recent weeks, we have acquired more information pointing to a new round of
crackdowns by the SLORC against pro-democracy activists in Burma. We also have
access to video footage of forced labor taken in January of 1996. Time is of the
essence in Burma, so please respond soon.
David Wolfberg, Director
Los Angeles Campaign for a Free Burma