What can we do to bring the Burmese military to the negotiating table?
Plenty, says activist Simon Billenness.
The story so far...
Using the tactics of the anti-apartheid campaign, activists in the US and Canada have caused Amoco, Eddie Bauer, Liz Claiborne, Macy’s and PetroCanada to withdraw from Burma. In 1995 three US cities – Berkeley, Madison and Santa Monica – passed laws boycotting companies doing business in Burma. The US Congress is currently considering the ‘Burma Freedom and Democracy Act’ that would impose economic sanctions. Meanwhile the European Union is discussing imposing tariffs on Burmese-made goods.
But many companies continue to ignore Aung San Suu Kyi’s call for sanctions. They include ARCO (US), Texaco (US), Total (France), UNOCAL (US), Premier (UK) and Heineken (Holland). The latter plans to open up a brewery in partnership with a military-owned company.
What can I do?
Join your national Burma Action group. Form a local Burma Action group with your friends and local activists. Brainstorm ideas for local campaigns in co-operation with your national Burma Action group.
Boycott companies that do business in Burma. Write to the companies to tell them of your boycott and ask them why they refuse to respect the clearly stated wishes of the Burmese democracy movement.
Organize demonstrations outside Texaco and Total gas stations. Return for a full refund any clothes marked ‘Made in Myanmar’ or ‘Made in Burma’ and tell the store why you won’t wear them.
Ask your local councillors to join other cities in boycotting corporations in Burma. Work for the passage of a law barring the city’s purchasing managers from buying any goods or services from companies doing business in Burma. Such laws in the US have already cost these companies thousands in lost contracts. The laws also deter companies from going into Burma in the first place.
Write to top management if you own stock in companies in Burma and attend the annual meeting to ask why they are supporting the Burmese military junta. Support shareholders’ resolutions that ask companies to withdraw from Burma.
Ask your national parliament representatives to introduce and support legislation imposing South Africa-style economic sanctions on Burma. Ask your prime minister or president to press for economic sanctions at the United Nations.
Do not holiday in Burma until democracy has been restored. Boycott travel agents advertising Burma holidays and tell them why you are doing so.
New Zealand Burma Support Group,
14 Waitati Place, Mt Albert, Auckland. Tel: (64) 9828 4855
Australia Burma Council, PO Box 2024, Queanbeyan NSW 2620.
Tel: (616) 297 7734
Burma Issues, PO Box 1076,
Silom Post Office, Bangkok 10504.
Franklin Research and Development,
711 Atlantic Avenue, Boston, MA 02111.
Tel: (617) 423 6655 Fax: (617) 482 6179
Human Rights Watch/Asia, 350 Fifth Avenue, 34th floor New York, NY 10118-3299 USA Tel: (1) 212 290-4700, Fax: (1) 212 736-1300 E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Web: http://www.hrw.org/asia/index.php
Free Burma Coalition website (with links to other Free Burma websites) http://www.freeburmacoalition.org
Outrage: Burma’s struggle for democracy by Bertil Lintner, White Lotus, London and Bangkok, 1990.
Burma in Revolt: opium and insurgency since 1948 by Bertil Lintner, White Lotus, Bangkok, 1994.
Freedom from Fear by Aung San Suu Kyi, Penguin, London, revised 1995.
Guide to Burma by Nicholas Greenwood, Bradt Publications, UK, 1996.
Burma: The Challenge of Change in a Divided Society ed. Peter Carey, MacMillan Press, Basingstoke, 1996.
Ethnic Groups in Burma by Martin Smith, Anti-Slavery International, 1994.
Burma Insurgency and the Politics of Ethnicity by Martin Smith, Zed Books, London, 1991.
Burma’s Revolution of the Spirit by Alan Clements and Leslie Kean, White Orchid, Bangkok, 1995.
John Pilger’s 1996 documentary Inside Burma: Land of Fear can be purchased on video from Video Resource Unit, Central Broadcasting, Broad Street, Birmingham B1 2JP, UK. Tel: (121) 643 9898.
©Copyright: New Internationalist 1996
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