Named and Shamed
Patrick Harrington        

Five companies have been named by the World Development Movement who demonstrate the ineffectiveness of self-regulation. WDM has pointed the finger at:-

British American Tobacco (BAT) - for use of unethical marketing methods in developing countries.

Cape PLC - for trying to evade paying compensation to chronically ill former workers in Sounth Africa.

Premier Oil - for going into business with the Burmese military regime (see our report below for further details).

Rio Tinto - for investing in the Grasburg mine, West Papua, Indonesia.

AstraZeneca - for developing seeds that are genetically modified to become sterile after one planting, to be sold to farmers that normally save their seed.

WDM has a five point plan. This includes holding UK companies legally responsible for their actions overseas. This is certainly worthwhile. Other measures advocated which place reliance on international bodies and agreements we are wary of. Co-ordinated international action by consumers and workers will prove far more effective in our view.

Premier Oil and Burma

Premier Oil is buttressing one of the most brutal dictatorships in the world. They are building a gas pipeline across the Tenasserim region of Burma. Reports suggest that the military have already forcibly relocated local ethnic peoples such as the Mon, Karen and Tavoyan people from the region. The military have also used forced labour - men, women and children and even the sick and elderly - to build roads and military barracks, grow food for the soldiers and carry loads. A committee of the French parliament confirmed this in May clearly stating that the Burmese army had used forced labour to prepare the pipeline site shared by both Total and Premier.

Thus far the ASEAN "constructive engagement" policy and foreign investment in and trading with Burma seems only to have prologed the SPDC (military) stay in power. Yet Burma is a country in crisis - $5 billion foreign debt, less than $150 million foreign currency reserves, soaring inflation and mass poverty.

Pressure must be brought to bear on companies pursuing unethical policies and we should look forward to the demise of the Burmese junta.