Thursday, December 16, 2010

Broken Ethics: The Norwegian Government’s Investments in Oil and Gas Companies Operating in Burma

The Government of Norway is complicit in natural-resource related human rights abuses in Burma, according to an explosive new report released today by EarthRights International (ERI).

The Norwegian Pension Fund-Global (Fund) has USD $4.7 billion invested in 15 oil and gas companies from eight countries operating in Burma. The report finds these companies complicit in abuses such as forced labor, killings, and land confiscation in Burma, putting Norway in violation of its own Ethical Guidelines for responsible investment. The Norwegian Fund is the world’s second largest sovereign wealth fund.

Broken Ethics: The Norwegian Government’s Investments in Oil and Gas Companies Operating in Burma (Myanmar)

Press Release:


"In 2005, the Norwegian Council on Ethics took up one of its first assessments of a company in the Fund’s investment portfolio when it scrutinized the French energy firm Total and the human rights impacts of the Yadana pipeline project in Burma. The Council concluded that Total had likely been complicit in the extensive use of forced labor connected to government-
provided security services and infrastructure construction for the Yadana project, as well as the forced relocation and deportation of villagers, and other violence perpetrated by the military."


In late 2008, a villager from Michauglaung explained how he was forced by the Burmese Army to provide security in his village along the Yadana and Yetagun pipelines:
We also have to do nighttime security – one night for three hours, once every two weeks. There are two groups – one in the beginning of the village, the other at the end of the village. If you fall asleep you have to provide [approximately 3 kilograms] of chicken [to the Burmese Army]. Sometimes they beat you up, and [then] you have to do one day of forced labor.

In 2010, the current ILO Liaison Officer in Rangoon Steve Marshall confirmed in writing to EarthRights International that forced labor has continued in the Yadana pipeline area.

As of June 2010, Total had yet to facilitate any complaints of forced labor to the ILO.

Total mislead investors:

The company went so far as to claim that the International Labour Organization (ILO) had certified that it had eradicated forced labor in its project area. From 2003 to 2009, on its website, Total claimed that “according to the ILO, the only region in the country in which forced labor has ceased is the area in which the Yadana gas pipeline was built.”

In fact, forced labor continues in the Yadana pipeline area, as described in detail in the sections above and in numerous EarthRights International reports. Moreover, the ILO has confirmed that it never stated that forced labor had ceased in the pipeline area and that this claim by Total is untrue. As exposed in the 2009 report Getting It Wrong, a senior and former ILO representative in Burma disavowed Total’s claims and noted that the statement that was attributed to the ILO was false and is “not right to say.”

Only in 2009, after EarthRights International exposed the untruth of Total’s statements, did Total quietly withdraw this misleading claim from their website. In 2010, the current ILO Liaison Officer in Rangoon Steve Marshall confirmed in writing to EarthRights International that forced labor has continued in the Yadana pipeline area

Total’s campaign to demonstrate the "benefits":

The Burmese Army has also used forced labor to maintain and repair local roads necessary for pipeline operations. These roads, ironically, have featured prominently in Total’s campaign to demonstrate the benefits brought by their presence. The primary benefit of the roads, however, appear to accrue to the pipeline companies and their personnel. Local people are not compensated for their road maintenance labor, and are then restricted from certain roads because of the potential damage caused by their bullock carts – most villagers do not own other means of transport.

According to previous accounts from Zinba Village published by EarthRights International, it appears that the forced maintenance began after complaints from foreign oil company workers about damage to the roads.


Testimonies from the pipeline area continue to show that the companies work closely with and aid the local Burmese Army battalions, which are in turn committing systematic human rights abuses against local villagers. A Burmese civilian working as a security guard for Total in 2010 reported to EarthRights International that the oil companies’ private security detail meets “almost every day” with the local Burmese military commander to “talk about the security issue” around the pipeline. The guard added that, “sometimes the army will ask for and use the company trucks to transport their troops or material when they need it, if the army does not have enough trucks.”

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Burma's 2010 Elections

Not Free, Not Fair, Not Inclusive

Youtube video explaining elections:

Burma’s 2008 Constitution:

  • The military is above the law & military coups are legalized
  • Federalism is denied. The military has control over ethnic states.
  • The military occupies 25% of the seats in Parliament.
  • The military controls 3 key Ministries :
  1. defence (control over their budget and military justice)
  2. home affairs (domestic repression)
  3. border affairs (cross-border trade, access to illicit rackets such as drugs, logging and smuggling, and license to conduct ongoing offensives against ethnic minorities)
  • The military has effective veto power over constitutional amendments
  • The National Defence and Security Council further entrenches the military
  • Basic human rights are still threatened
  • Political activists are barred from office
  • The Presidency favours the military
  • Aung San Suu Kyi is barred from Presidency even if she is freed (under a clause denying spouses or children as foreign citizens).

2010 Election Laws
  • Excludes Buddhist monks, nuns and members of other religious orders.
  • Forbids those associated with armed opposition ethnic groups from taking part in elections. (Junta has been threatening ethnic ceasefire groups).
  • Excludes those convicted of a crime and serving a sentence from being a member of a political party (Aung San Suu Kyi and many other political prisoners would have to be expelled from their NLD party for it to be allowed to stand)