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Why is Chevron responsible for continued dictatorship, prolong suffering and the repeated bloodshed in Burma!
To stop the military dictatorship in Burma, we must stop the Chevron involvement in Burma (Read more) as Chevron's pipeline in Burma is the Regime's lifeline for brining $$$ to purchase arms and to pay salaries for the army. Join May 27, protest at the Chevron Share Holder's meeting: WED, MAY 27, 2009, 7am to 10:30am at Chevron Corporate Headquarters; 6001 Bollinger Canyon Road, San Ramon, CA More info Download Flyer
CNN Video on Unocal/Total:
Foreign Companies in Burma Must Review
By YENI Tuesday, May 19, 2009
As the Burmese regime brutally increases its isolation of opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, the US and countries of the European Union remain steadfast in applying their pressure on the junta. US President Barack Obama formally extended his administration’s sanctions, while the EU is considering whether to step up its own measures.
Burma's stubborn, thuggish military leaders can shrug off Western pressure, however, knowing they can rely on support from such friendly and powerful neighbors as China and India. While neither Beijing nor New Delhi has officially commented on the latest moves against Suu Kyi, many Southeast Asian countries, some of whom have significant trade and investment links with Burma, are also inclined to follow a live-and-let-live policy towards the regime.
However, both camps—supporters of sanctions and proponents of engagement— acknowledge failure in their efforts to influence Burma’s military leaders. That is why US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in February correctly said that sanctions applied by the US and the European Union, as well as the policy of constructive engagement by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) and Burma’s neighbors, were not working.
So the question remains: who can influence the Burmese generals to listen to world opinion?
Many observers agree that a start could be made on at least ending ongoing human rights abuses if oil and gas companies operating in Burma use their influence with Burma's ruling junta, the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC).
Current investors in Burma’s oil and gas industry include companies from Australia, the British Virgin Islands, China, France, India, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore, South Korea, Thailand, Russia and the US.
Those companies are funding the Burmese dictatorship. At the height of the monk-led demonstrations in September 2007, Marco Simons, US legal director at EarthRights International, an environmental and human rights group with offices in Thailand and Washington, declared: "The oil and gas companies have been one of the major industries keeping the regime in power."
The concept of "corporate social responsibility" is often advanced by companies operating in Burma, although that’s usually just a shield behind which they campaign against international environmental and human rights regulations.
For instance, there have been documented abuses connected to the Yadana project operated by the French company Total and the US-based Unocal, including land confiscation, forced labor, rape, torture and killings within the communities along the pipeline. Compensation was paid to some victims after human rights groups filed legal actions against the companies before a federal court in the US.
Foreign investment in Burma’s oil and natural gas sector is significant. But there is no transparency in Burma about how much the government receives in oil and gas payments, nor clarity about how the funds are spent.
The military receives the largest share of the official budget and the Burmese regime allocates little to public sectors such as health and education. Instead, hundreds of millions of dollars disappear annually into the pockets of the ruling generals, their cronies and their pet projects, such as the new administrative capital, Naypyidaw, the cyber city, Yadanabon, and even a nuclear research reactor.
The latest action against Suu Kyi, following the regime’s criminal mismanagement of Cyclone Nargis relief and its crackdown on the September 2007 demonstrations should lead companies to search their consciences when contemplating deals with the regime.
ERI Project Coordinator Matthew Smith believes there are also business reasons to think twice about accepting Burma contracts. "Financing the Burmese regime in this way can only reflect poorly on a company’s reputation and that will ultimately affect their bottom line and ability to capitalize on deals in the future,” he says. “It’s simply bad business.”
Of course, good business must come with ethics, morality and responsibility. This is the time for shareholders of global and regional oil and gas companies operating in Burma not only to think about maximizing profits but also to face up to their responsibilities by evaluating the human rights impact and the criteria for continuing to invest there.
Burma: Foreign Oil and Gas Investors Shore Up Junta
Foreign Investments in Burma
Foreign companies are lining up to partner with Burma’s military junta and tap into the country’s lucrative resources, particularly oil and gas fields. This foreign investment provides a crucial source of support to the junta, allowing it to ignore demands that it return Burma to civilian rule and end human rights abuses.
The billions of dollars generated by these projects, which involve at least 27 companies from 13 countries, help to fund the military without bringing benefits to ordinary people.
Outside investors in Burma’s oil and gas industry include companies from:
* British Virgin Islands
* Russian Federation
* South Korea
* United States
Many of the foreign companies involved are wholly or partially owned by governments. That is the case for China, India, Japan, Malaysia, Russia, South Korea, and Thailand.
Who’s drilling for oil and gas in Burma?
We have compiled detailed information on foreign investment in Burma’s oil and gas fields. Our review of publicly available sources shows that foreign investors have a stake in more than 30 different oil and gas fields in Burma. We have created maps to show where these fields are located and which companies are invested where. We profile each of these projects and the individual companies involved.
How does it work?
Foreign companies sign contracts with the state-run Myanmar Oil and Gas Enterprise (MOGE). Under these contracts, the companies get permission to drill for oil and gas in a designated geographic area known as a block. These blocks may be on land (“onshore”) or in Burma’s coastal waters (“offshore”), and each one is identified by a name or abbreviation.
The “production-sharing contracts” between MOGE and the companies specify the fees and taxes the companies have to pay to the government of Burma. They also give the government the right to become a partner in the project after a period of time, if it looks promising. In other words, foreign companies spend money up front to explore for and produce petroleum, but Burma’s military gets a cut of the sale of oil and gas produced from these fields once initial costs are recovered. The money flowing into the coffers of Burma’s generals is already staggering and will only increase as more gas is discovered and brought into production.
How much money is at stake?
Burma’s military government relies heavily on the oil and gas sector to sustain itself in power. It earned approximately $2.16 billion in 2006 from sales of natural gas, which accounted for half of Burma’s exports and represents its single largest source of foreign exchange.
Petroleum proceeds are set to increase as a result of ongoing investment by foreign companies actively exploring for more oil and gas.
Contracts for a majority of the 30 oil and gas project were signed after mid-2004. Ten of the deals, covering 14 blocks, were penned between September 2006 and September 2007. This trend signals the government’s ongoing move to expand foreign investment in this sector to keep itself afloat.
What should the world do?
The United Nations Security Council should prohibit any new investment in Burma’s oil and gas fields. It also should block company payments that help sustain Burma’s brutal military rule.
Until then, all countries that have economic ties to Burma should act to suspend any further development of Burma’s oil and gas sector. They also should impose targeted financial sanctions on companies owned and controlled by the Burmese military, or whose revenues substantially benefit the military. Specifically, they should freeze bank accounts belonging to military-controlled companies and impose additional sanctions to block their financial transactions. They also should require companies headquartered in their jurisdictions that have business ties to Burma to publicly and fully disclose all payments made to the Burmese military, directly or through the entities it controls, and where those payments are made.
Robust banking sanctions are needed as the centerpiece of an effort to cut off funds that are used to finance repression by Burma’s military. Banking sanctions complement targeted sanctions on investment and trade because they have the potential to severely constrain the junta’s ability to access income, no matter the origin of the payments. If applied effectively by key financial powers — notably the United States and European Union — strict financial sanctions could block the junta from using much of the international financial system.
Chevron supports Myanmar's brutal regime
The image was stunning: tens of thousands of saffron-robed Buddhist monks marching through the streets of Rangoon, protesting the military dictatorship of Burma. The monks marched in front of the home of Nobel Peace Prize-winner Aung San Suu Kyi, who was seen weeping and praying quietly as they passed. She hadn't been seen for years. The democratically elected leader of Burma, Suu Kyi has been under house arrest since 2003. She is considered the Nelson Mandela of Burma, the Southeast Asian nation renamed Myanmar by the regime.
After almost two weeks of protest, the monks have disappeared. The monasteries have been emptied. One report says thousands of monks are imprisoned in the north of the country.
No one believes this is the end of the protests, dubbed "The Saffron Revolution." Nor do they believe the official body count of 10 dead. The trickle of video, photos and oral accounts of the violence that leaked out on Burma's cellular phone and Internet lines has been largely stifled by government censorship. Still, gruesome images of murdered monks and other activists and accounts of executions make it out to the global public. At the time of this writing, several unconfirmed accounts of prisoners being burned alive have been posted to Burma-solidarity Web sites.
The Bush administration is making headlines with its strong language against the Burmese regime. President Bush declared increased sanctions in his U.N. General Assembly speech. First lady Laura Bush has come out with perhaps the strongest statements. Explaining she has a cousin who is a Burma activist, Laura Bush said, "The deplorable acts of violence being perpetrated against Buddhist monks and peaceful Burmese demonstrators shame the military regime."
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, at the meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, said, "The United States is determined to keep an international focus on the travesty that is taking place." Keeping an international focus is essential, but should not distract from one of the most powerful supporters of the junta, one that is much closer to home. Rice knows it well: Chevron.
Fueling the military junta that has ruled for decades are Burma's natural-gas reserves, controlled by the Burmese regime in partnership with the U.S. multinational oil giant Chevron, the French oil company Total and a Thai oil firm. Offshore natural-gas facilities deliver their extracted gas to Thailand through Burma's Yadana pipeline. The pipeline was built with slave labor, forced into servitude by the Burmese military.
The original pipeline partner, Unocal, was sued by EarthRights International for the use of slave labor. As soon as the suit was settled out of court, Chevron bought Unocal.
Chevron's role in propping up the brutal regime in Burma is clear. According to Marco Simons, U.S. legal director at EarthRights International: "Sanctions haven't worked because gas is the lifeline of the regime. Before Yadana went online, Burma's regime was facing severe shortages of currency. It's really Yadana and gas projects that kept the military regime afloat to buy arms and ammunition and pay its soldiers."
The U.S. government has had sanctions in place against Burma since 1997. A loophole exists, though, for companies grandfathered in. Unocal's exemption from the Burmese sanctions has been passed on to its new owner, Chevron.
Rice served on the Chevron board of directors for a decade. She even had a Chevron oil tanker named after her. While she served on the board, Chevron was sued for involvement in the killing of non-violent protesters in the Niger Delta region of Nigeria. As in Burma, Nigerians suffer political repression and pollution where oil and gas are extracted, and live in dire poverty. The protests in Burma were actually triggered by a government-imposed increase in fuel prices.
Human-rights groups around the world have called for a global day of action on Saturday in solidarity with the people of Burma. Like the brave activists and citizen journalists sending news and photos out of the country, the organizers of the Oct. 6 protest are using the Internet to pull together what likely will be the largest demonstration ever in support of Burma. Among the demands are calls for companies to stop doing business with Burma's brutal regime.
Amy Goodman is the host of "Democracy Now!," a daily international TV/radio news hour.
Thursday, October 4, 2007
Chevron Corp. of San Ramon is drawing harsh criticism for its business ties to Burma, the Asian nation conducting a brutal military crackdown.
The company owns part of a natural gas project in Burma, where soldiers crushed pro-democracy protests last week and killed at least 10 people.
U.S. sanctions prevent most U.S. companies from working in Burma, but Chevron's investment there existed before the sanctions were imposed and continues under a grandfather clause. As a result, the company is one of the few large Western companies left in the country.
Now Chevron faces pressure to pull out.
Human rights activists are calling on the company to either leave Burma or persuade the country's military rulers to stop killing demonstrators. Bloggers are encouraging people to flood Chevron's phone and fax lines in protest. Some are calling for a boycott.
"There's no question that the money from the pipeline project helps prop up the military government," said Marco Simons, U.S. legal director for EarthRights International. "If Chevron can stop people from getting killed by using its influence, we'd certainly like to see that. In the long run, we don't think anyone should be doing business with this government."
But Chevron doesn't intend to leave.
"Chevron is maintaining its interest in the ... project," said spokesman Alex Yelland.
The company has been trying to build up its portfolio of oil and natural gas projects in Asia, where energy demand is growing fast. Chevron also has a history of working under difficult political circumstances. In some cases, that history involved countries with questionable human rights records or nations that ran afoul of the U.S. government. In other cases, the company's own actions have been called into question.
Chevron has been the focus of repeated protests in Nigeria, for example, where soldiers paid by the company have been accused of shooting villagers and burning homes. And the company continues to work in Venezuela, despite constant sniping between Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and the Bush administration.
Chevron has denied any part in any human rights abuses. Its executives argue that staying in troubled countries - even pariahs such as Burma - does more good than harm by employing locals and funding health and education programs.
"I'm convinced that hundreds of thousands of people in Burma have benefited," said Chevron Vice Chairman Peter Robertson, who pointed to the community doctors and teachers his company has paid for. "They benefit from us being there."
There's also the question of whether pulling out would work.
Chevron owns a minority stake in the Yadana natural gas field and pipeline, a little more than 28 percent. Both China and India have been eager to do business with Burma, hoping to secure some of the fuel supplies that their surging economies need. If Chevron left, one country or another would try to take its place, Robertson said.
"It's pretty clear that this is a very attractive asset, and other people would be interested," he said.
Frank Verrastro, head of the energy program at the Center for Strategic & International Studies think tank, said Burmese law also would force Chevron to fork over much of the company's capital gains on the project if it sold its stake. That could amount to hundreds of millions of dollars, depending on the sale price. The project cost roughly $1 billion to build in the mid-1990s and is doubtless worth far more today.
"That goes straight to the Burmese government," Verrastro said. "The biggest conundrum right now is how to deal with bad actors who have a resource that the world needs. And we haven't come to grips with that in any way, shape or form."
Chevron's involvement in Burma - called Myanmar by the military junta that rules it - already has a complicated and controversial history.
It started with Unocal Corp., one of Chevron's historic rivals. Unocal invested in the Yadana project in the 1990s along with three other companies: France's Total, Myanmar Oil and Gas Enterprise and the Petroleum Authority of Thailand. When Washington decided to impose sanctions on Burma's military junta in 1997, Unocal was allowed to stay under a grandfather clause.
Chevron acquired the stake when it bought Unocal in 2005. By then, however, the Yadana project had become a public relations disaster for Unocal. Burmese exiles sued the company in a U.S. court, saying the pipeline's construction had involved forced labor and other human rights abuses committed by the military. Unocal denied the accusations but settled the case out of court for an undisclosed sum.
Burma isn't the only place where Chevron has faced questions about human rights.
The company's operations in Nigeria have triggered frequent protests by poor Nigerians who say they see little of the money flowing from the nation's rich oil fields. Some have sued Chevron, saying that soldiers paid by the company have killed protesters and villagers.
And in Ecuador, Chevron is fighting a long-running lawsuit concerning oil-field pollution that residents say has contributed to a wave of illnesses in part of the Amazon jungle. The suit alleges that Texaco, which operated an oil-field in Ecuador years before Chevron bought the company, left pools of petroleum and hazardous chemicals scattered around the field, eventually covering them with thin layers of soil rather than removing them.
In both countries, Chevron has denied the allegations, both inside and outside court.
In Burma, Chevron acts mainly as an investor. The company does not operate the Yadana field. That role falls to Total, which has the biggest stake in the project, at 31 percent.
Despite its strategic location for Chevron, Yadana has its limits. The U.S. sanctions prevent Chevron from expanding its investment, even as the company pours money into exploring for oil and natural gas off neighboring Thailand. And the existing operations are small compared to many of the company's projects worldwide.
Even so, Yadana represents a key source of cash for Burma's government.
Human Rights Watch, one of the groups trying to pressure Chevron, says natural gas sales are the government's single largest source of income, although economic data from Burma are unreliable. Gas sales to Thailand brought the government $2.16 billion in 2006, according to Human Rights Watch. Most of the Yadana project's gas flows to Thailand.
"President Bush should order Chevron to cease operations in Burma immediately," said Nyunt Than, president of the Burmese American Democratic Alliance. "That would cut hundreds of millions of dollars from this military. It would create great pressure on them to come to the table."
A White House spokesman referred questions about Chevron's presence in Burma to the National Security Council, which did not respond to a query.
Chevron pays for social programs in communities along the Yadana pipeline's route, funding teachers, libraries and doctors. The company reports significant declines in local deaths from malaria and tuberculosis since the programs began.
But exerting political pressure on Burma's government is another question entirely. Chevron has typically resisted calls for that kind of involvement.
Chief Executive Officer David O'Reilly defended that position in a Chronicle interview last year.
"You have to be apolitical and try to remember what you're doing. What we do well is we invest in oil and gas exploration, refining and whatnot," he said. "We were in Angola during years and years of civil war and years when there were clearly people in the United States who felt that Angola was an inappropriate place to invest. And yet Angola's civil war is over. We've had a very positive influence there. We've created a lot of jobs."
-- For a quick overview of Burma, its people, economy and recent history, go to the World Factbook from the Central Intelligence Agency: www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/bm.html
-- Chevron Corp. has a brief statement on Burma on the company's Web site. Read it here: www.chevron.com/news/press/Release/?id=2007-10-02
-- Want to call Chevron? The main number for the company's San Ramon headquarters is (925) 842-1000.
-- The French oil company Total operates the Burma natural gas project that includes Chevron as a minority investor. For Total's take on the project, look here: burma.total.com/en/gazier/p_2_2.htm
E-mail David R. Baker at firstname.lastname@example.org