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9/27/07 A Hong Kong Newspaper - 10 people killed!Japanese journalist, Kenji Nagai, 50, is pictured in the lower right, lying on the floor, dying. He was killed September 27 after soldiers fired automatic weapons into a crowd of demonstrators. While the state media reported that 10 were killed, the number of deaths from the crackdown is likely much higher.
As peaceful protestors are being shot down Earthrights International (ERI) is urgently requesting that the oil and gas industry (especially companies such as Chevron and Daewoo) – the industry that sparked the protests -- to use its influence with the Burmese military to respect human rights.
The protests began weeks ago in part due to spiking domestic gas prices, and protestors, led by Buddhist monks, are demanding democratic reforms. Nonetheless, the multinational corporations involved in Burma’s natural gas industry, such as Chevron and Daewoo, have shown no sign of using their influence to protect human rights and prevent further violence.
The current protests, in which up to 100,000 people have thronged the streets of Rangoon and 26 other cities, are the largest challenge to the military since 1988, when thousands were killed after mass protests were brutally suppressed. According to Ka Hsaw Wa, ERI’s Executive Director, who was a student leader in those protests:
“As someone who experienced this regime’s brutality in 1988, I am glad that this time around, the world is watching. But that is not enough. The international community, including multinational corporations, must act now to prevent further bloodshed in Burma. The people have suffered profoundly for too long—they have already sacrificed so much, and they will not stop.”
The protests began on August 19th, when the military’s decision to sharply increase the price of natural gas and other fuels sent shockwaves through the economy. The military has recently responded with violence, killing at least several protestors (including monks) and arresting hundreds more. But the oil and gas corporations themselves, who are partnered with the military government in gas export projects, have shown no sign of trying to prevent further bloodshed. Instead, Daewoo International and the Thai gas company PTTEP initially announced plans to export more of Burma’s natural gas, and on September 25 PTTEP issued a statement assuring the public that their investment was not jeopardized by the unrest. A third company, India’s ONGC Videsh, along with India’s Petroleum Minister Murli Deora, traveled to Burma amidst the protests to sign three new deals to extract and export natural gas. And Chevron Corporation, the largest remaining U.S. company in Burma, has simply remained silent.
“The corporations who can influence the military junta know who they are. They must pressure the regime to maintain peace, and respect the rights to speech and association of the people of Burma. Instead, however, they are pursuing their business interests while people’s lives are at stake,” added Chana Maung, Director of ERI Southeast Asia. “The regime has resorted to violence against the peaceful protestors, and the companies now also have blood on their hands, but it is not too late for them to act.”
According to ERI Burma Program Coordinator Naing Htoo,
“Whether they like it or not, the companies are not socially or politically neutral in the current unrest in Burma. They say that their presence in Burma helps, not hurts, our people. It’s time for them to put their money where their mouth is.”