Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Fight Oppression in Burma by Refusing to Do Business

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Fight Oppression in Burma by Refusing to Do Business

Article excerpt

THROUGH their investments, PepsiCo Inc., Texaco Inc., and Unocal Corporation are supporting a despicable regime whose violations of human rights are among the most egregious in the world.

Burma (also called Myanmar) is controlled by a military dictatorship that grabbed power in 1988. It calls itself the State Law and Order Restoration Council (SLORC). After an overwhelming defeat at the polls in 1990, it imprisoned the leader of the victorious party, the Nobel Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, and continued to rule the country by force.

It has built an Army of nearly 350,000 soldiers, who torture, rape, enslave, and summarily execute Burmese citizens. Governmental organizations, such as the US Department of State and the United Nations; nongovernmental groups, such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch; and world leaders, including the Nobel Laureates the Rev. Desmond Tutu and the Dalai Lama, all have condemned the illegal and despotic government of Burma.

"The Burmese believe they are a master race, and they are out to exterminate us," I was told by Gen. Bo Mya, leader of the Karens, an ethnic people who have been fighting for their freedom in Burma for over 40 years.

It has been argued that PepsiCo, Texaco, and Unocal do not support the abusive activities of the SLORC against its own people. They are nonpolitical institutions whose purpose in Burma simply is to do business. In fact, some argue their presence helps the Burmese people prosper and has a civilizing effect upon the country as a whole.

I am sure these companies and others treat their employees and those with whom they have business relations with decency and respect. I do not doubt that Burmese people working directly for these companies are enjoying relatively good salaries. But the effects of these large investments do not stop there. …

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