Friday, September 28, 2007

Burma: It does relate to us

Map: BBC News

In my earlier post, I said that I was writing about Burma (officially known as Myanmar) despite that fact that it was "not strictly to do with bbcs".

Well, that was actually a naive thing to say because, as you may have read in the media by now, Burma does have links to both the UK and China.

Burma's neighbour, China, plays a crucial role in this uprising. Its stance is the one that probably matters the most. However, China is also the main source of the Burmese military's arms. And the way China has dealt with Tibet, another Buddhist region calling for more freedoms and human rights, does not bode well.

It's not a nice thought but China may actually prefer to have an oppressed country run by a brutal, military dictatorship on its doorstep rather than a democratic state where Buddhist monks are seen as national leaders.

As for the UK's links, many high profile British companies have distanced themselves from the Burmese regime (so-called ethical shopping has really taken off in recent years) but UK-sourced investment remains high.

Natural gas, timber and tourism seem to be the main attractions for British business but vast amounts of murky business is also done via companies based in British offshore territories:
The UK is ranked the 2nd largest source of approved investment in Burma, estimated at a total of more than 1.2 billion dollars since 1988, largely because companies from all over the world have used UK overseas territories to channel investment to Burma. They are attracted to dependent territories by tax incentives and the lack of transparency. In addition, UNOCAL used the fact that it had invested in Burma via Bermuda to try to avoid being sued in US courts over human rights abuses.

“The British government could stop this kind of investment today, but refuses to do so,” said Yvette Mahon, Director of the Burma Campaign UK. “The refusal to act is inexplicable, the government says it does not support trade and investment in Burma, but does nothing to stop it.”


The same campaign group published a list in 2003 of UK companies that have refused to say whether or not they source products from Burma.

Surprisingly the list contains a number of household names; bear in mind that this list is from 2003 and has not been updated, as far as I can tell:
Companies refusing to disclose if they source from Burma [in 2003]:

Bay Trading
By Design Plc
Ciro Citterio
First Sport
Jane Norman
Jeffrey Rogers
Jo Bloggs
Karen Millen
La Coste
LK Bennett
Miss Sixty
Pied a terre


1 comment:

Kwok said...

"It's not a nice thought but China may actually prefer to have an oppressed country run by a brutal, military dictatorship on its doorstep..."

It's not a nice thought, but China IS an oppressed country run by a brutal, military dictatorship.

I'm a bbc and sometimes when I hear people of my parent's generation speak of China, I can barely believe we're talking about the same place. When I hear big companies like Yahoo and Google make those deals which results in bloggers going to jail I wonder why every right-thinking Chinese doesn't become indignant with blood bursting rage. I also wonder if, in my lifetime, I will ever see China given back its freedom and if there is anything someone as fortunate as me can do about it.

Sorry to rant all over your blog again. I enjoy reading your posts.