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Release: Free Burma Movement "Unst
Reply-To: "W. Kesavatana-Dohrs" <dohrs@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
Subject: Release: Free Burma Movement "Unstoppable"
Free Burma Coalition
Ph: 608-827-7734 Email:zni@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
For Immediate Release:
FREE BURMA MOVEMENT BECOMING "UNSTOPPABLE FORCE"
PEPSI WITHDRAWAL UNDERSCORES EFFECTIVENESS OF DEMOCRACY CAMPAIGN
Purchase, NY -- January 27 -- PepsiCo, Inc., the $30 billion soft drinks
giant, has confirmed its intention to withdraw completely from the
Southeast Asian dictatorship of Burma. In a letter released on Friday,
Pepsi said "Based on our assessment of the spirit of current US government
foreign policy, we are completing our total disengagement from the Burmese
market. Accordingly, we have severed all relationships with our former
franchise bottler, effective January 15, 1997."
Pepsi had long been a boycott target because of close ties between its
Burmese bottler and the ruling Burmese military junta, widely condemned
for its human rights violations and suppression of democracy. The
bottler, named Thein Tun, had publicly called for the popular democracy
movement, headed by Nobel Peace Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, to be
"ostracized and crushed."
Aung San Suu Kyi, in the cover story from the January 19 Parade Magazine,
appealed to the world community. "Don't support businesses which are
supporting injustice in Burma," she said.
"This movement is becoming unstoppable" says analyst Larry Dohrs of the
Free Burma Coalition. "Look how fast it keeps growing. Business and
political leaders, whether in Japan, the European Union, Singapore or the
US, need to recognize how much bigger the campaign will be in six months,
one year, and beyond, and make their decisions accordingly. There are no
barriers to growth," he adds.
The Free Burma campaign is coordinated by leading Burmese intellectuals
who have established a highly effective Internet-based activist
organization, the Free Burma Coalition, and by more than 100 campus and
grass-roots groups around the world, who assert that Burma is "The South
Africa of the 90's." The goals of the Free Burma movement are supported by
the National Coalition Government of the Union of Burma (NCGUB), exiled
members of Aung San Suu KyiÕs political party, overwhelming winners of
1990 elections that were voided by the military.
Since last July, companies leaving Burma have included Carlsberg,
Heineken, London Fog, Motorola, Apple Computer, Hewlett-Packard, Walt
Disney, J. Crew and Wente Vineyards. Eleven US cities, one county, and
the State of Massachusetts have passed anti-apartheid-style "selective
contracting" laws. More are expected this year, including cities in
Canada, the United Kingdom and Australia.
The next focus of the campaign is a small group of oil companies,
including Unocal, Total, Arco and Texaco. Unocal and Total are partners
with the Burmese junta in a major project to pipe natural gas into
Thailand. The United Nations, European Commission, International Labor
Organization, and US State Department have all concluded that forced labor
is endemic in Burma, and is especially prevalent on infrastructure
projects. Numerous groups have reported that forced labor and other human
rights violations are directly related to the gas pipeline project.
Between February 1st and 4th, American University in Washington, DC will
host an international conference on Burmese pro-democracy activism. With
PepsiCo now a non-issue, activists are aiming higher. "We are becoming a
global movement," says Dr. Sein Win, Prime Minister of the NCGUB. He
notes that there are active groups in 28 countries worldwide, from the US
and Canada, to the European Union, Japan, Thailand, Malaysia, the
Philippines and South Africa.
A federal sanctions bill on Burma passed the US Senate last July by a vote
of 93-6. The Clinton administration is expected to impose a ban on new
investment in Burma in the next several weeks. The European Union is also
expected to harden its position in February, withdrawing GSP privileges
for goods of Burmese origin.
Boycotts continue to target the Burmese junta's "Visit Myanmar Year"
campaign, garment makers Nautica and Ralph Lauren, as well as Burmese
rubies, sapphires and jade. Burma's mines are controlled by the military,
and credible reports say the junta pays miners in opium and heroin,
contributing to an exploding AIDS crisis within the country.
Inside Burma, tanks in the streets are a lingering reminder of the junta's
crackdown on student demonstrators in December. Aung San Suu Kyi is
effectively under house arrest, isolated from her supporters. Twenty
demonstrators received seven year prison terms last week for their roles
in the December unrest. "The Pepsi victory will be a major morale booster
for the forces of democracy inside Burma fighting under the leadership of
Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and National League for Democracy," says Zarni, Free
Burma Coalition Coordinator.
Zarni, Free Burma Coalition, 608-827-7734
Larry Dohrs, Free Burma Coalition, 206-784-5742
Simon Billenness, Franklin Research and Development, 800-548-5684
Edward Lahey, Jr., PepsiCo General Counsel, 914-253-3077