Daily News- October 09- 2002- Wednesday

  • Rangoon refuses to keep promises
  • Aung San Suu Kyi Joins Notable Business and Civic Leaders in Addressing the 2002 Business for Social Responsibility Conference
  • Movement pushes Canadian mining company Ivanhoe to get out of Burma
  • Canada Lashes Burma for Stifling Democracy

  • Rangoon refuses to keep promises

    The Bangkokpost

    Burma has been playing a game of diversions with the world, its citizens and with Thailand for the past five months. That is how much time has elapsed since the Rangoon dictatorship took two important actions.

    The first was to free the democratic leader Aung San Suu Kyi from detention, in order to ignore all calls for negotiations on national reconciliation. The second was to close the Thai border and ignore Thai requests for a sustained, cooperative effort to end the huge drug trafficking operation from Burma to Thailand. The border is to reopen but one can only hope for action on the two major problems.

    Rangoon maintains its strong and violent regime in the face of demonstrated Burmese will for democratic change. This has resulted in the outflow of perhaps one million refugees both political and economic to Thailand and border fighting which spills into the country. Burma also seems to acquiesce to the manufacture and smuggling of drugs into Thailand.

    These represent the first and second threats to Thai national security. Burma has hurled racial and national invective at Thailand and insulted the Thai monarchy. Rangoon has alternatively insulted its own refugees and refused to discuss their repatriation, then offered to hold discussions on their return. The dictators state publicly they hope to arrange a democratic regime, but have done nothing to do so, as Mrs Suu Kyi confirmed last week.

    The worst insult to Thai intelligence is over drugs. Burma has repeatedly stated that it will crack down on the drug trade. And it seems to have taken steps against some opium production. But it has refused to address the methamphetamine trade of the United Wa State Army, a direct ally of the Burmese regime.

    Last week, Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer went to Rangoon for talks. He learned, and told the world, that Rangoon has no current plans to discuss national reconciliation with the non-violent opposition, as epitomised by Mrs Suu Kyi. The Australian government is friendly to the Thai policy on Burma. Unlike most Western countries, Australia believes it can engage Rangoon in talks and convince it to cooperate with the world, and free its people.

    That policy is unchanged, but Mr Downer told Foreign Minister Surakiart Sathirathai the time has come to increase the pressure on Burma. He gave few thoughts on how to accomplish this. Australia will put more public, moral pressure on Rangoon to show good faith and begin talks with Mrs Suu Kyi. This is in line with United Nations policy.

    Since Thaksin Shinawatra became prime minister, Thailand has refused to confront Burma on any issue other than the insults to the monarchy. Burma may mistake this as weakness. The border closure ruined scores of Thai and Burmese businesses, with all Thai goods banned in Burma. The only commercial transaction made public by the generals was the purchase of service from the iPSTAR satellite, due to be launched next year by a Shin Corporation subsidiary.

    The drug trade continues to thrive. The Wa traffickers have invested in building a large town, with satellite villages close to the border, mostly to further the methamphetamine business. In some circumstances, the Burmese refusal to address this dirty ya ba business could be viewed as a hostile act against Thailand. At the least, the Burmese regime is crudely avoiding its duty and promises to the United Nations to take action against friends who traffic drugs. The new defence minister, Gen Thammarak Isarangkura na Ayudhaya, said the primary role of the armed forces would be to fight the drug trade. It is vital that he keep his word, as long as the Burmese trafficking continues unabated across a newly reopened border.

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    Aung San Suu Kyi Joins Notable Business and Civic Leaders in Addressing the 2002 Business for Social Responsibility Conference


    (CSRwire)MIAMI, Florida - Approximately 1,000 business executives from more than 30 countries will hear about issues of corporate social responsibility from several notable business and civic leaders at the 2002 Business for Social Responsibility (BSR) Annual Conference this November 5-8, 2002, at the Hotel Inter-Continental in Miami, Florida.

    BSR announced today that Aung San Suu Kyi, Nobel Peace Laureate and leader of the nonviolent movement for human rights and democracy in Myanmar, will deliver a special prerecorded message to Conference attendees.

    The Conference is the leading global forum for companies seeking to improve corporate accountability and governance, community investment, human rights compliance, environmental management and other areas of corporate social responsibility. Conference attendees share real examples, best practices and new business models with their peers, thought leaders and representatives of government agencies and non-governmental organizations.

    This year's BSR Conference keynote speakers include:

    "Aung San Suu Kyi, Nobel Peace Laureate and leader of the nonviolent movement for human rights and democracy in Myanmar

    "Arthur Levitt, former Chair of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission under President Bill Clinton, and former chairman of the American Stock Exchange

    "Mark Malloch Brown, Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme and Chair of the United Nations Development Group, to speak on "Partnering for Progress"

    "Nicanor Restrepo, President of Sureamericana de Inversiones S.A. and Chairman of the board of directors of Cemento Argos, Nacional de Chocolates, Bancolombia and Smurfit Carton de Colombia, to speak on "Realizing Value for Business"

    "Marina Silva, Senator from Brazil, to speak on "Getting Ready for the Future"

    "Charles Strauss, President of Unilever North America, to speak on "The Special Challenges of the Global Company"

    The 2002 BSR Conference's plenary panels will discuss:

    "Examining the Impact of Business on Society" moderated by Hodding Carter III, President and CEO of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, and featuring Dr. Judy Henderson, Chair of the Global Reporting Initiative; Gilbert Lenssen, Dean of the European Academy of Business in Society; Dr. Vandana Shiva, Founder and Director of the Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Ecology

    "Measuring Return on Responsibility: A Financial Perspective" moderated by Heather Timmons, Finance & Banking Editor of Businessweek, and featuring Gay Harwin, Esq., Co-Chair, Council of Institutional Investors; Timothy Lankford, President of Sustainable Asset Management USA; Will Oulton, Deputy Chief Executive of FTSE Group

    The Conference will also feature speakers in dozens of breakout sessions from more than 80 leading companies and organizations including: BP p.l.c., Chiquita Brands International, The Coca-Cola Company, Edison International, Ford Motor Company, Hewlett-Packard Company, National Consumers League, Novo Nordisk A/S, Oxfam America, Rainforest Alliance, Sempra Energy, Sony Corporation, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Volkswagen AG, World Wildlife Fund and many more.

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    Movement pushes Canadian mining company Ivanhoe to get out of Burma


    "Heave-Ho Ivanhoe!" CFOB is gearing up its campaign to push Canadian company, Ivanhoe Mines, out of Burma. The Monywa copper mine, located in Sagaing Division, is a 50/50 partnership between Ivanhoe Mines and Burma's dictatorship - on par with the Taliban in terms of brutality and repression. It is the biggest foreign mining enterprise in the country.

    The international campaign to oust companies from Burma gained momentum when the International Labour Organization (ILO) issued its unprecedented call for sanctions against Burma in Nov.2000 - calling on its constituents to "review...the relations that they may have with Burma and take appropriate measures to ensure that [Burma] cannot take advantage of such relations to perpetuate or extend the system of forced or compulsory labour."

    Research done by labour and human rights groups proved without a doubt that Burma's military regime has been systematically using forced labour country_wide on infrastructure projects -- many of which are then utilized by foreign companies.

    In response to the ILO, the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC) and the International Federation of Chemical, Energy, Mines and General Worker's Union (ICEM) called on Ivanhoe to clear out of Burma last June, citing examples which they say prove the Monywa mine is connected to forced labour. For example, their joint statement of June 14 states, "According to the ILO, 921,753 people were forced to build the railway connecting Monywa to the town of Pakokku. The Thazi dam hydroelectric plant which is the mine's power source was built using 3,000_5,000 forced labourers."

    Forced labour is so prevalent in Burma, it is no wonder that Burma's regime is reviled at home. Despite the extreme repression of opposition parties in advance of the 1990 national elections, the people - including most military personnel - voted overwhelmingly for Aung San Suu Kyi's, National League for Democracy (NLD). But the regime, then called the State Law and Order Restoration Council, refused to relinquish power. Since then, the NLD has been calling for a halt to foreign business in Burma because of the support it provides the generals. In a video-taped message to Canada smuggled out in 1999, Aung San Suu Kyi tated "We are not against investment per se...We do not think that investment in our country at this time can do our country any good." The global community, as stated in the ILO resolution, backs this call.

    But Ivanhoe claims its business operations in Burma are not political and refutes all accusations that its Monywa mine fosters forced labour or other human rights violations. However, in contravening the NLD, they have clearly showed where their allegiance lies. And in partnering with the military junta, Ivanhoe has become an accessory to its crimes.

    Ivanhoe's Monywa project provides Burma's military regime, the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC), the foreign currency it so desperately needs to stay afloat. While health care is virtually non_existent in Burma, ranking second to last by the World Health Organization in 2000, the SPDC spends over 40% of its budget on weaponry. Guns are the prime tool that keep this unloved, unelected regime in control. CFOB's Director, Corinne Baumgarten sums up the debate, "Ivanhoe's denials that it is an accomplice to the SPDC's system of forced labour is paramount to a company, in business with the Taliban, claiming that their operations don't contribute to the oppression of women in Afghanistan."

    The Monywa copper project is poised to become a massive income generator for the junta. It is trying to raise $390 million to expand the mine by excavating a new deposit in Letpadaung. Meanwhile, the junta earns royalties and rent from Ivanhoe amounting to US$885,000 in 2000.

    Most Burma experts believe that the ILO's call for sanctions was the major factor in prompting the regime to enter into talks with Aung San Suu Kyi in October 2000. While the possibility for these talks to develop into meaningful dialogue appear increasingly dismal, letting up on pressure now will topple any chances for political reform.

    "We urge you to re_evaluate your direct business relations with the Burmese military junta in light of this global consensus," wrote Ken Georgetti, the President of the CLC to Ivanhoe Mines last June.

    "It is the position of the global labour movement that it is impossible to do business with the Burmese government or in Burma without subsidizing forced labour and other human rights violations. Certainly in the case of Ivanhoe's partnership with the military junta, foreign investment is directly propping up the regime."

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    Canada Lashes Burma for Stifling Democracy

    OTTAWA (Reuters)- - Canada launched a strong attack on Burma on Wednesday, accusing the military government of stifling democracy and urging it to start serious talks immediately with opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

    Burma has freed hundreds of political prisoners over the last two years, including more than 300 members of Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy.

    The releases began after the ruling generals started confidential talks with Suu Kyi, which they said were aimed at eventually bringing democracy to Burma.

    But David Kilgour, Canada's Secretary of State for Asia-Pacific, said there were few signs the junta was serious about introducing democratic reforms.

    "The (junta) has yet to provide any substantive reason for anyone to believe that it intends to give up power or even to engage in substantive negotiations with Aung San Suu Kyi," he said in a speech.

    "We have yet to be convinced that any tentative steps toward opening the system are anything more than a public relations exercise."

    Sporadic talks between Suu Kyi and the junta over the last two years have yet to move beyond "confidence building", officials say. Suu Kyi -- who was freed from 19 months of house arrest in May -- has repeatedly called for meaningful talks to begin as soon as possible.

    The National League for Democracy overwhelmingly won an election in 1990, but the military refused to hand over power.

    Kilgour said poverty, infant mortality, malnutrition among children and HIV infections were increasing rapidly in Burma and said an estimated 1,400 to 1,600 political prisoners remained in jail, often in terrible conditions.

    "Any meaningful consideration of engagement by Canada with the regime in Burma depends on the unconditional release of all political prisoners," he said, adding that Ottawa had no plans to reestablish full relations with Burma.

    In 1988 Canada broke off high-level bilateral ties and suspended official commercial relations with Burma while withdrawing all support for Canadian firms doing business in the country.

    "Despite the release of Aung San Suu Kyi, Canada does not feel the regime has made sufficient progress toward democracy and respect for human rights to warrant changing our policy toward Burma," Kilgour said.

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