|Author (Person)||Cronin, David|
|Series Title||European Voice|
|Series Details||Vol.7, No.38, 18.10.01, p6|
A system of binding EU sanctions should be introduced to punish firms colluding with grave human rights abuses, a British MEP has urged.
Labour's Richard Howitt, who is drafting the European Parliament's report on 'corporate social responsibility', argues the EU must take action against firms that assist oppression.
Last week he held a hearing in Brussels, at which British and Belgo-French oil giants Premier and TotalFinaElf were accused of using soldiers to provide security for the Burmese pipelines they are exploiting.
Marco Simons, a spokesman for campaign group Earth Rights International, told the meeting that the military routinely use forced labour and had uprooted several villages in the pipeline region, for the benefit of both companies.
He claimed that a memo from the US Embassy in the Burmese capital, Rangoon, stated the consortium to which Total belongs had instructed the military to help with building helicopter landing pads in the region, despite the firm having been warned about the soldiers' reputation for heavy-handedness.
Simons also attacked Premier for breaching its internal policy that it would cut off relations with business partners which do not comply with internationally-recognised human rights standards. "The Burmese military is the business partner of the companies as well as their agent for pipeline security," he added. "And the companies have not shown any commitment to ending the abuses committed by the military."
But Premier Oil representative Richard Jones argued that his company has been "the main catalyst in terms of the business community" for positive change in Burma. Premier has been training the security forces to respect human rights standards and introduced a joint programme with TotalFinaElf six months ago to monitor their progression.
Howitt said, however, the oil companies had "no excuses" for continuing to operate in Burma. Other multinationals, including Apple Computers, Texaco and Pepsi Cola, have withdrawn from the south-East Asian state, following reports of systematic abuse of basic rights by the SLORC (State Law and Order Restoration Council) dictatorship. He also called on the EU to follow the US example of banning new investment in Burma.
The deputy stressed he was not trying to impose "new regulations and red tape" on European companies. He was instead seeking to ensure they meet existing standards, such as those on workers' rights set by the International Labour Organisation.
A system of binding EU sanctions should be introduced to punish firms colluding with grave human rights abuses, a British MEP has urged. Labour's Richard Howitt, who is drafting the European Parliament's report on 'corporate social responsibility', argues the EU must take action against firms that assist oppression.
|Subject Categories||Business and Industry, Values and Beliefs|
|Countries / Regions||Southeastern Asia|