UNOCAL out of BURMA!
- Please send as far and wide as possible.
Editor, The Konformist
Tue, 06 Feb 2001
Simon Billenness <sbillenness@...>
* * * Please forward on to any and all who might be interested * * * * *
From: Heidi Quante <zquante@...>
UNOCAL out of BURMA!
As part of efforts to ratchet up the pressure against Unocal we'll be
targeting a specific Board member each month from now until the Unocal
Shareholder meeting in May. This month we'll be focusing on Frank C.
Herringer, Unocal Board member and Chairman of TransAmerica.
Next week will be harass Herringer week and there are many things you can do!
Since the 14th is Valentine's Day we thought we'd tell Herringer to have a
heart and use his position as board member to get Unocal out of Burma.
(Please see the fact sheet at the end of the e-mail for more info about
Unocal's operations in Burma.)
ACTIONS YOU CAN TAKE
Come to the demonstration!
CALL - Takes 5 minutes
This may be a long distance call but it will be worth it because it's
Herringer's direct line and he'll be sure to get your message.
Herringer's Telephone Number: (415) 983-4123
"As a Unocal Board member you are in a unique position to call upon Unocal
to withdraw it's operations from Burma. Have a heart and call for Unocal
to leave Burma immediately"
note: some folks will be calling Herringer each day next week. you can
make it part of your morning or lunch break. take 5 minutes a day to tell
Herringer how ya feel.
Continuing our campaign to pressure petroleum corporations to leave Burma
by contacting members of their Boards of Directors, this week we write to
Frank Herringer, board member of Unocal. This week (the week of February 4)
please send a "Valentine card" to Mr. Herringer, who is Chairman of the
insurance/finance company TransAmerica. This is coordinated with other
Valentine's Day activities designed to draw Mr. Herringer's attention to
Burma. The card can be store-bought or home made; simple (a red heart drawn
on white paper) or elaborate.
Mr. Frank Herringer
600 Montgomery St.
San Francisco CA 94111 USA
On your card, write a simple message, such as:
"Have a Heart, Call for Unocal to Leave Burma"
"The People of Burma Need Your Love. Unocal Out!"
"Unocal's Burma Pipeline is a Heartbreaker!"
Cards from children would be particularly effective. If you are having a
meeting, party or other event, ask people to sign a giant Unocal withdrawal
"Valentine" for Mr. Herringer.
letter campaign by Project Maje
When: February 14th
NOON - 1pm
Where: Frank Herringer's Office
600 Montgomery Street
At noon on February 14th Free Burma, human rights, environmental, labor and
other activists will be demonstrating outside of Herringer's office telling
him to have a heart and get Unocal out of Burma. We'll also be delivering
Herringer an oversized Valentine's Day Card.
For more information about the demonstration please contact Heidi at
zquante@... or call (415) 503-0888
ADDITIONAL ACTIONS YOU CAN TAKE:
We're in the process of creating UNOCAL Action Packets for Earth Day. If
you're interested in doing something on your campus for Earth Day please
let us know by e-mailing zquante@...
* * * * * * *
UNOCAL FACT SHEET
A NEW BREED OF ENERGY COMPANY
Unocal, a California oil corporation, is involved in a joint-venture with
Burma's brutal and repressive military regime. The junta which rules Burma
has been condemned for its human rights violations by the U.S. Congress,
U.S. State Department, AFL-CIO, European Union, United Nations, and Amnesty
International. The UN's International Labor Organization, after years of
investigation, has called for multilateral sanctions due to the pervasive
use of forced labor throughout Burma. The military maintains its
stranglehold on Burma's people with weapons bought with foreign currency
gained in partnerships with foreign oil companies. Unocal is one of the
last American companies still doing business with Burma's military regime.
THE DEADLY DEAL
In February 1995 Unocal signed a contract with the junta to extract and
transport natural gas using a pipeline from the Yadana Field located off
Burma's coast. The pipeline goes from the undersea gas field across
southern Burma and into neighboring Thailand. Unocal is a 28.26 %
shareholder in this project. Its project partners are TotalFinaElf of
France with 31.24 %, the Petroleum Authority of Thailand (PTT) with 25.5 %,
and the Myanma Oil and Gas Enterprise (MOGE) with 15 %. MOGE is the energy
ministry of the regime. Unocal's initial payments to the junta to gain the
concession were roughly $20 million.
THE PIPELINE KILLING FIELD
Of the gas pipeline's 218 miles, 41 miles cuts across southern Burma's
Tenasserim region to Thailand. The pipeline area is the homeland of the
Karen, Mon and Tavoyan peoples. These ethnic minorities have been under
attack by the junta's troops which are seeking to suppress rebellion and
use civilians for forced labor on army projects.
To completely control the pipeline region, thousands of people have been
forcibly relocated and their homes and farms destroyed by the junta's
troops. Imprisoned in new settlements, these villagers have been forced to
work without pay constructing roads, railways, and military bases, and
clearing forest along the pipeline route. Many of them have been tortured,
raped and murdered by the troops providing security for the pipeline.
Unocal executives have been callous when confronted with accounts of this
human rights abuse. "If you threaten the pipeline, there's gonna be more
military. If forced labor goes hand in glove with military, yes, there will
be more forced labor. For every threat to the pipeline there will be a
reaction," commented Unocal's former President John Imle.
A lawsuit against Unocal on behalf of victims of its Burma pipeline scheme,
continues in a US Federal Court in California. Extensive testimony from
victims and witnesses about abuses related to the pipeline form the basis
of the suit. "The allegations of forced labor in this case are sufficient
to constitute an allegation of participation in slave trading," stated
Federal Judge Richard Paez, the first judge to preside over the case.
Later, in a summary judgment, Federal Judge Ronald Lew found that the
evidence suggests that Unocal knew that forced labor was being used and
that (Unocal) benefited from the practice.
Unocal and Total boast that their project brings gainful employment,
education and health care to Burma's people. They claim that they provide
agricultural assistance and fair wages in the pipeline region. However,
thousands of refugees continue to flee the pipeline area. The oil company
development projects have been accused of doing little to help people in
reality, and there are reports of their payments to civilians being
confiscated by the military. Ka Hsaw Wa, Goldman Award winning director of
EarthRights International, which has conducted extensive investigations in
the pipeline area, comments that villagers there say that these projects
are like when the man throws leftover bones at the dog.
In Burma the gas pipeline cuts through precious ecosystems including dense
tropical forest, disrupting the habitat of rare animals such as tigers,
rhinoceros and elephants. It has destroyed wetland areas and demolished a
wide swath of forest. Logging companies and poachers (including Burmese
soldiers hunting elephants) are now able to enter the militarily secured
area. A wildlife sanctuary established years ago by ethnic Karens is
On the Thai side of the border, the pipeline cuts through a rainforest
region, defying the protests of Thai environmentalists who objected to its
encroachment on protected forests and its harm to some of the last herds of
wild Asian elephants. Unocal's unwillingness to rein in its partners is
part of a pattern of irresponsibility, commented Bhinand Jotirosaranee, one
of the Thai protest leaders, "They are accountable for this environmental
destruction, and are showing disrespect to local people who have cherished
elephants for centuries."
With a severe economic crisis in Asia decreasing Thailand's ability to fund
large infrastructure projects, the actual need for the pipeline project has
come into question. Thailand's PTT was unable to get the pipeline operating
on schedule, and the electric utility company that was supposed to receive
the gas has been late in completing its generating plant. It now appears
that the gas from Burma is more expensive than, and probably of an inferior
quality to, gas from Thailand's own Gulf of Siam, yet Thai consumers will
still be forced to pay for the gas from Burma. In addition, Thailand's
energy needs have decreased due to the slowdown in the nation's
economy. But Unocal has persisted in promoting the pipeline project, and
is actively involved in efforts to enhance the image of Burma's regime
while fighting off economic sanctions against the regime.
BURMA'S STRUGGLE FOR DEMOCRACY
Burma's military bloodily suppressed a popular uprising for democracy in
1988, killing thousands of unarmed demonstrators. In 1990 elections, the
people of Burma overwhelmingly voted for the National League for Democracy,
led by Aung San Suu Kyi, who in 1991 was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. But
her party was never allowed to take office, and a junta of generals
continues to keep a tight grip on the country. Weapons for the army have
been procured with hard currency earned from deals with the multinational
oil companies. In addition to providing foreign exchange to the junta, the
petroleum deals have given it an incentive to cling to power indefinitely,
in hopes of raking in billions of dollars in profits from the sale of gas
through the pipeline.
All investment in Burma has been controversial, with the oil company
ventures particularly so. "These people are hurrying in to make cozy
business deals while pretending that nothing is wrong," Aung San Suu Kyi
told The Times Magazine, "They need to be reminded that this is one of the
most brutal military regimes in the world and putting money into the
country now is simply supporting a system that is severely harmful to the
people of Burma." A grassroots movement for corporate withdrawal from
Burma, based on South Africa's anti-apartheid campaigns, has resulted in
widespread consumer boycotts, and local selective purchasing laws in over
21 cities. The United States government issued a ban on new American
investment in Burma in 1997. Companies which have withdrawn from Burma
following public criticism include the oil firms Petro-Canada, Amoco,
Texaco, ARCO, and Baker Hughes, as well as Motorola, Apple Computers,
Pepsi, and Levi-Strauss.
Unocal's Burmese government partner, MOGE, has been accused of being a
primary money-launderer for the country's massive heroin trade. Unocal has
rejected calls for an investigation of its link to Burma's drug
trade. "It' s the oil companies who prop up this corrupt narco-regime with
lucrative payments and turn a blind eye to widespread heroin trafficking"
said Robert E. Wages, President of the 85,000 member Oil, Chemical and
Atomic Workers trade union.
Unocal's partnership with the brutal junta of Burma is not its only ugly
aspect. Unocal has been involved in some of the worst oil spills and leaks
in California history, and in a polluting gas plant on Lubicon Cree land in
Canada. Unocal's cultivation of ties with the Taliban militia of
Afghanistan, to promote a gas pipeline through that war-torn country, came
under criticism from groups objecting to the Taliban's gender apartheid
abuse of women, support of international terrorism, and involvement in the
heroin trade. Unocal project sites in India and Indonesia have been marked
by fatal violence against indigenous protesters by security forces in
In 1998, a petition was submitted to the Attorney General of California by
organizations and individuals calling for the revocation of Unocal's
corporate charter, due to the company's environmental devastation,
complicity in crimes against humanity in Burma and elsewhere, and other
forms of corporate misconduct. Called a company without a country by
Business Week, Unocal has become notorious. Unocal severely downsized its
US operations in 1997, selling its refineries and gas stations to another
company, Tosco. It should be noted that the Union 76 gas stations are no
longer owned by Unocal, so they are not subject to any boycott regarding
Burma. After years of weak share prices and selling off assets, Unocal CEO
Roger Beach, the high profile defender of the Burma pipeline project, was
replaced in December 2000 by Charles Williamson, a longtime Unocal executive.
Other petroleum companies still in Burma include a parallel pipeline group
of Premier (UK), Nippon (Japan) and Petronas (Malaysia); as well as
Halliburton, a Texas oil services company which Vice President Dick Cheney
served as the CEO of until recently. Cheney has been a partner with Unocal
in the lobbying groups USA Engage and National Foreign Trade Council which
promote continued trade with Burma's regime.
In support of Burma's democracy movement, we call on Unocal to completely
withdraw from Burma. All corporations should cease operations in Burma
until genuine democracy is in place.
WHAT YOU CAN DO:
* Write to the new CEO of Unocal. Tell the company to withdraw from Burma!
Send letters to:
Mr. Charles Williamson, CEO
2141 Rosecrans Blvd., Suite 4000
El Segundo, CA 90245
* Join the Free Burma Coalition, Website: http://www.freeburmacoalition.org
* Get more information on Burma's pipelines, including the detailed report
Total Denial II from EarthRights International: http://www.earthrights.org
* Ask your school or investment group to divest any Unocal stock they own.
*Contact Heidi Quante for more information about additional ways you can
become involved in the Unocal Campaign.
Tel (415) 503-0888 E-mail: zquante@...
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