[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index
More corporate withdrawals!
The following is the text of a story that was submitted to the Boston
Globe. The story ran on Friday, November 29 with a couple of the
paragraphs edited out, including the final paragraph with my pithy quote.
I thought you'd appreciate reading the full story.
Next week, Massachusetts should make public its list of companies that are
in Burma according to the definition set in the Massachusetts Burma
selective purchasing law. (The definition includes companies with both
equity and non-equity interests in Burma.)
Expect further corporate withdrawals as the Massachusetts law and those
laws enacted by the eight cities continue to be implemented.
---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Fri, 29 Nov 1996 13:56:28 -0800 (PST)
Subject: Burma piece
Motorola, HP to cut ties to Burma
by Theo Emery
Responding to a Massachusetts law that bars state agencies from
contracting with companies that conduct business in Burma, Motorola and
Hewlett-Packard have decided to suspend business transactions in the
military-ruled country rather than lose contracts with the Bay State.
Both companies cited the state's selective purchasing law as the
reason for ending business ties to the southeast Asian nation, also known
as Myanmar. California-based Hewlett-Packard, which supplies the state with
computers and other equipment, is severing links to its Singapore-based
distributor that sells equipment to Burma. Motorola, which furnishes
two-way radios to state emergency personnel, will recall its two full-time
employees from the country by year's end.
Jim Whittaker, Hewlett-Packard's international public policy
manager, said that the cost of ending business with Massachusetts did not
justify a continued presence in Burmese markets. "We had to evaluate the
situation and make a decision. And we made a decision to sever relationship
with our Myanmar distributor and proceed from there."
Motorola's vice president of issues management, Larry Barton, said
that similar reasons were behind Motorola's decision. "If we had stayed in
Burma it would have a big impact on us," said Barton, noting that weak
semiconductor sales made the company unusually vulnerable to economic
The companies' actions come on the heels of Apple Computer's
decision last month to withdraw from the troubled nation. Apple, which
sells computers to Massachusetts agencies as well as to school in Burma,
was the first company to respond to pressure from the law.
The state's unilateral sanctions against the Burmese military
government, ruled by the State Law and Order Restoration Council (SLORC),
were signed into law in June, and went into effect at the end of September.
The Massachusetts law is the world's largest such selective purchasing law
leveled against Burma. Several cities, including San Francisco, have
already passed similar legislation, and New York City has a selective
purchasing law pending.
Selective purchasing advocates point to the Bay State legislation
as a model for other laws around the country. Julia Carpenter, issues
director of CPPAX, a group active in pressing for the sanctions, says that
the law sends an important message to corporations that choose to invest in
Burma. "We consider such investment as contributing to the repression
committed against the Burmese people," said Carpenter.
Not all investors in Burma are bowing to the law. United Parcel
Service spokesman Mark Dickens says that UPS has sent a letter of protest
to the state complaining of being unfairly targeted by the sanctions. The
company has no equity, assets or investments in the country, but because of
weekly deliveries through a third-party carrier is in danger of losing
contracts with Massachusetts agencies.
Mobile Corporation, which sells petroleum products to
Massachusetts, is one of the most vocal opponents of such action, taking
out ads in major newspapers condemning unilateral sanctions as futile.
"Our position is that people think very carefully about the
implications of unilateral action," said Mobile spokesman Chris Springham.
"It is very important to us that the US maintain an open relationship with
the world's trading countries."
Aung San Suu Kyi, leader of the popular National League for
Democracy and a Nobel Prize recipient, called for sanctions against her
country's government in June, likening support for the Burmese
pro-democracy movement to anti-apartheid efforts against South Africa in
The United Nations, the European Union, and many other
international observers have corroborated charges that the Burmese
government is responsible for massive human rights violations of, including
forced labor, summary executions, torture, and complicity in the heroin
trade. SLORC smothered a nationwide pro-democracy movement in 1988, and
following a 1990 landslide victory for the National League for Democracy,
jailed Suu Kyi and other party leaders.
Although Suu Kyi was released from house arrest in July of 1995,
SLORC has continued the clampdown on the National League for Democracy.
This summer, 238 League members were jailed, and SLORC closely monitors the
Nobel Laureate's movements, routinely accusing her on national radio of
being mentally ill.
Corporate withdrawal have accelerated in the last two years. Levi
Strauss was one of the earliest U.S. corporations to pull in their sails,
but Amoco, Liz Claiborne, Eddie Bauer, Heineken, and LaBatt's have since
As the impact of selective purchasing takes hold, more companies
will follow suit, according to Simon Billenness, senior analyst at Franklin
Research and Development Corporation, a Boston investment firm. "The steady
trickle of corporate withdrawals from Burma is poised to become a flood,"