Chevron Props Up Myanmar’s Government

Late September Buddhist monks in Myanmar, formerly called Burma, led a protest march against the military-controlled government (the Junta). They marched past Nobel Prize winner, Suu Kyi, who was democratically elected as the leader of Myanmar in 1990, but never allowed to assume office. The Junta attacked the monks and other protestors. The Myanmar government claims only ten people were killed, but no one knows how many were really killed.

The biggest source of revenue for the Myanmar government is the country’s natural gas reserves. According to Human Rights Watch, half of Myanmar’s exports are gas, and in 2006 the revenue from gas sales to Thailand, its biggest customer, totaled U.S. $2.16 billion.

The Yadana Gas Pipeline Project is the largest investment project in Myanmar. The American multinational corporation Chevron owns part of the project with the French oil company Total, and the Thai oil company PTT Exploration and Production Co Ltd (PTTEP). Unocal was a part of the project before Chevron acquired the company. The Collaborative for Development Action (CDA), a consulting agency based in Cambridge, MA which works with governments and international organizations, visited the Yadana region and made an assessment on the project. As a result CDA developed reports. Chevron states that the CDA “confirmed that the communities along the Yadana pipeline corridor are better off as a result of the Yadana pipeline's social and health projects.

Unocal was accused of using slave labor to create the project, and was sued by the International Labor Rights Forum in the U.S. under the Alien Tort Claim Act. Unocal settled out of court, but never admitted to using slave labor. Soon after Unocal settled Chevron bought the company. Total was sued in France, and settled the case out of court.

“Chevron's…interest in the Yadana Project is a long term commitment that will help meet the critical energy needs of millions of people in the region,” declared Chevron’s October 2, 2007 press release. “Our community development programs also help improve the lives of the people they touch and thereby communicate our values, including respect for human rights,” it went on to say. What the press release did not include was how its respect for human rights is being communicated to the Junta who just brutally repressed dissent.

Director of the Business and Human Rights Program at Human Rights Watch, Arvind Ganesan, said, “Companies doing business in Burma argue their presence is constructive and will benefit the Burmese people, but they have yet to condemn the government’s abuses against its own citizens. Keeping quiet while monks and other peaceful protesters are murdered and jailed is not evidence of constructive engagement.”

Earth Rights, a human rights organization, wrote a passionate letter to Chevron CEO, Dave O’Reilly on September 27, 2007. The letter started out by saying, “Chevron Corporation is one of the largest foreign investors in BurmaMyanmar) and the only remaining major U.S. corporation with a significant presence there.” The letter goes on to ask Chevron to “use your presence in Burma to pressure the military regime to respect human rights, including the rights to freedom of association and freedom of speech, and to refrain from using any further force against peaceful protestors.” The letter concludes with a plea to O’Reilly and Chevron to “not stand by as the killing begins again.”

Please, sign the petition addressed to Chevron at the following link:

http://www.petitiononline.com/urgeChev/petition.html.

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