Ministers are urged to reveal Burma links

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Indy Politics

Ministers are coming under increasing pressure to reveal which British companies import goods from Burma amid a growing clamour of protest at the appalling human rights abuses carried out by the country's military dictatorship.

Campaigners, trade unionists and MPs demanded that the Treasury release details of imports from the south-east Asian state, insisting that consumers have a right to know whether goods, from gems to clothing, come from the troubled country.

Leaders of the UK-based Burma Campaign, which presses for the restoration of democracy in the country, said yesterday that requests for a breakdown of Britain's imports from Burma had been rebuffed after HM Revenue and Customs said releasing the information was not in the national interest.

British imports from Burma totalled £34.5m in 2005, a fall on 2004's total of £73.8m. But campaigners said that consumers had a right to know whether they were buying goods that might help prop up the military regime.

They have targeted the trade in gems - most of the world's high-quality rubies originate in Burma - teak imports and clothing as key areas where the Burmese regime generates vital foreign exchange.

Michael Moore, the Liberal Democrat foreign affairs spokesman, said: "The ruling junta in Burma is one of the most barbaric regimes in the world. Given the heinous crimes and human rights abuses that it continues to commit, it is indefensible for companies to do business with it. Those that do should be named and shamed."

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