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Reply-To: "W. Kesavatana-Dohrs" <dohrs@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
Yesterday the National Public Radio show "Marketplace" ran a 5 minute
piece on US companies in/out of Burma. At the end of the piece they asked
for comments on several questions:
Should the US ban investment in Burma?
Should US companies use their economic clout to pressure repressive
governments to improve?
What did you think of the report?
Their contacts are as follows:
Comment Line: 213-765-0430
Office Phone: 213-743-6555
Web Site: www.marketplace.org
Mailing Address: Marketplace Radio
Los Angeles, CA 90089
One thing that struck me was that the report did not note that consumer
and activist pressure is for much more specific reasons than "it's bad to
do business in Burma because the government is bad." For example, Eddie
Bauer, Liz Claiborne, Columbia Sportswear and Disney were pressured
because they were manufacturing in factories with substantial military
ownership. Motorola was supplying the SLORC with cell phones and mobile
radios. Those without SLORC connections are not allowed to have or use
these. Apple Computer was supplying computers to a market where
"unauthorized" use of a modem can result in a 15 year prison term. Wente
Vinyards was in a distribution partnership with an individual who is
barred from the US because of his ties to heroin trafficking.
Unocal is in partnership with the SLORC and, by contract, uses the SLORC
army as its security team. This despite the overwhelming evidence of
gross violations of human rights and dignity by this army.
Should the US ban investment in Burma? Under current circumstances,
Should companies use their clout to change the SLORC? This is a false
hope. As incoming UN Ambassador Bill Richardson has said repeatedly, the
companies have done "absolutely nothing" to urge change. As the NYT
editorial of Dec. 16 pointed out, Unocal is now providing a financial
lifeline to the SLORC. Top NLD officials say Total is THE leading
supporter of the SLORC.
Finally, the Marketplace report did not mention that even hard-bitten
companies like Peregrine are leaving not because of human rights but
because the SLORC economy is a gangster economy, with corruption,
dishonesty, no rule of law, no trustworthy financial information,