Activists target Rolls-Royce and Lloyd's on Burma deals

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Rolls-Royce and Lloyd's of London are among the latest of 39 British groups to be named and shamed by human rights campaigners for supporting the brutal military dictatorship in Burma.

Rolls-Royce and Lloyd's of London are among the latest of 39 British groups to be named and shamed by human rights campaigners for supporting the brutal military dictatorship in Burma.

Other organisations on the Burma Campaign UK's "Dirty List" include the mobile phone maker Ericsson, the telecoms firm Alcatel, the shipping company Maersk and Swift, a financial services co-operative between the world's banks.

Rolls-Royce, according to Burma Campaign UK, has a contract to supply and service aircraft engines for at least one Burmese airline, which are all owned by the regime, through a subsidiary in Singapore. The insurance market Lloyd's of London provides insurance and reinsurance to Burmese firms, such as Yangon Airways, by working with regime-owned insurers. Swift is an electronic network of banks which is used to make financial transactions. It has four Burmese banks on its network, which allows them to make transactions in euros.

These organisations are flouting UK Government policy on Burma, which states that no company should invest or trade there "when the regime continues to suppress the basic human rights of its people".

The Government took the step last year of asking British American Tobacco to abandon its joint-venture there. But there are no official UK sanctions in place and these companies are not breaking UK law. The United Nations has even condemned the regime as a "crime against humanity".

The new Dirty List shows that timber companies, such as the Bristol-based Robbins Timber, are selling Burmese teak in to the UK. A host of travel companies, such as Abercrombie & Kent, Road to Mandalay and the Ultimate Travel Company, continue to offer tours to the region, despite a direct appeal from the Foreign Office to stop. DHL, the parcel delivery company, undertook to review its joint-venture with the regime in June last year, but appears to be expanding its operations there.

"These companies are helping to keep Burma's military dictatorship in power," John Jackson, the director of Burma Campaign UK, said yesterday. "No British or European company should be funding a regime whose soldiers rape women and children, which imprisons and tortures political opponents and that ruthlessly persecutes ethnic minorities."

He said the number of UK companies involved in Burma highlights the failure of Government policy. Imports to the UK from Burma have tripled to £62.2m since 1998. The political situation there continues to decline. Aung San Suu Kyi, the democratically elected leader, has been under house arrest since last year.

A spokesman for Rolls-Royce yesterday said the company adhered to export licensing regulations with regard to Burma, while Lloyd's said its members "always comply with international sanctions that are in place as well as international regulatory requirements".

Comments