[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index ][Thread Index ]


Sunday Express
May 14, 2000



     Premier Oil's annual meeting tomorrow promises to be "one of the 
liveliest agms for some time", warn
campaigners pleading with the company to pull out of Burma. Supporters of 
The Burma Campaign and
the World Development Movement will be protesting at the meeting in London 
and will use their
shareholders' rights to ask the Premier board to abandon its 27 per cent 
share in a controversial gas
pipeline project.

And they will echo demands made last month by Foreign Office minister John 
Battle, who met Premier to
express the Government's "deep concern" about the company's investment in 

Campaigners are outraged by what they regard as the pipeline's contribution 
to grave human rights abuses
in Burma and by the financial support it provides for the generals who run 
the country.

Jessica Woodroffe, head of campaigns at the World Development Movement, 
said the pipeline "is fuelling
oppression in a country where torture, forced labour and human rights 
abuses are routine and widespread".

One of Premier's two major shareholders appears sympathetic to the 
campaigners but is reluctant to
publicly criticise the company.

US gas company Amerada Hess owns 25 per cent of Premier, but it has 
insisted its investment is not used
to fund activities in Burma and its director on Premier's board leaves the 
room when the subject of
Burma is discussed. Amnesty International does not make disinvestment 
demands, but Peter Frankental,
head of its business group, said: "We'd like to know what Premier are doing 
to ensure the security forces
operating in the area of their installations are conforming to 
international human rights norms."

Adding to Premier's discomfort is a new report from US group Earthrights 
International. It claims that
those building the pipeline were warned in an environmental impact 
assessment report in 1996 that human
rights abuses would occur as a direct result of the Burmese military being 
used to guard the area around
the pipeline.

Premier chief executive Charles Jamieson said the company had acted on the 
report's findings. If Premier
becomes aware of human rights abuses and environmental damage in the area 
of the pipeline, he added:
"we bring them to the attention of the authorities and ensure something is 
done about them."

Asked whether it would heed the calls to leave Burma, he said: "At the time 
the British government called
us in and asked us to do that, they pointed out that we were not acting 

He added that Premier has a 15-year contract to supply gas through the 
pipeline to Thailand and that it
would be sued if it pulled out early.

Although the Foreign Office discourages companies from doing business in 
Burma, it rejects calls to ban
British firms from operating there. Ministers say an EU-wide ban would be 
more effective than action by
Britain alone. But a Foreign Office spokesman said the Government may 
eventually accept the need for a
British ban on investment in Burma.