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Mitsubishi Out of Burma!

>From Peter Hadfield's columnm "With Respect"
The Mainichi Daily News
Oct. 13, 1996

        The Mitsubishi group of companies might like to know that on October
16 it is be hit by a so-called 'International Day of Action to Boycott
Mitsubishi,' led by organizations who do not approve of its activities in
Burma. This stems from Mitsubishi's strong ties to Burma's de facto
government, the State Law and
Order Restoration Council, or SLORC. Last February, the president of
Mitsubishi Corporation, Minoru Makihara, was wined and dined by the SLORC in
Rangoon. The parties discussed trade and investment and later signed a
'memorandum of understanding and cooperation.' Mitsubishi Corporation will
work with the SLORC on the cultivation and milling of edible oil. It also
wants to exploit Burma's natural gas resources and is trying to export
Japanese agricultural and mining machinery to Burma. If Mitsubishi Corp's
aims in Burma are in keeping with its record across southeast Asia, it will
also have a strong interest in helping the military regime chop up Burma's
rain forest.  
        To be fair to Mitsubishi bigwigs, they may be unaware that the
people they are dealing with are military dictators. A giveaway might have
been the fact that when Makihara sat down to negotiate with his new business
partners most of them were wearing military uniforms. Then again, he may
have dismissed this as a macho affectation often adopted by men of a special
sexual orientation.
        It may also have escaped the notice of Mitsubishi executives that
women and children are among those putting together a gas pipeline being
supplied by Mitsubishi (unlike Mitsubishi executives, these people are
forced to work without pay.)  
        Or that the cars being supplied by a new Mitsubishi Motors
dealership (reportedly the first in Burma) are destined mainly for people
connected with SLORC and Burma's nouveau riche.  
        Mitsubishi Heavy industries Ltd. may not be aware of the fact that
slave labor plays a large part in Burma's infrastructure projects, and it
might like to seek assurances that the bridges it wants to build there will
not use slave labor in their construction. 
        Yes, it could be that Mitsubishi's involvement with one of the two
worst dictatorships in East Asia (the SLORC is competing with North Korea's
Kim Jong Il for bottom place) is purely a result of ignorance, not greed and
indifference. In which case it might be civic-minded of readers to remind
Mitsubishi of the SLORC's record, and point out that dealing with
bloodthirsty regimes does not do much for its collective corporate image.
Offices of Mitsubishi companies can be found throughout Japan. Their phone
numbers are in the book. 

To express your concern at Mitsubishi's involvement in Burma:
Write to  
Mr. Yoshikawa
Environmental Department
Mitsubishi Corporation, Head Office
Fax:   +81-3-3210-8959

Letters to the editor of Maincihi Daily News:

Fax:   +81-3-3211-2509