Christian Solidarity Worldwide Calls on British Government to Ban Burma Investment

Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) on Monday called on the British Government to ban investment in Burma, as the organisation joined Burma Campaign UK, the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Democracy in Burma, the Trade Union Congress and the Conservative Party Human Rights Commission.

A Channel 4 Dispatches documentary revealed that the French oil company Total used British-dependent territories to invest in Burma. Total Oil is the largest European investor in Burma.

Burma's ruling military regime, the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC), is believed to earn up to US$450 million (£238 million) a year from Total's gas pipeline project.

The UK is the second largest source of approved investment in Burma since 1988. Most of this investment has been channelled by overseas companies through British-dependent territories such as Bermuda and the British Virgin Islands, which lack transparency and provide tax incentives.

The SPDC is one of the world's worst violators of human rights and spends over forty per cent of its budget on the military. While the United States has a trade and investment ban, the UK simply "discourages" investment in Burma, without any legal prohibition. The European Union has banned investment in named state-owned enterprises, but this does not include the oil, gas, timber or gem sectors, the regime's major sources of revenue. Instead, it includes a pineapple juice factory and a tailor's shop. The EU has also imposed an asset freeze, but has so far only frozen £4,000 across all 25 EU member states.

Mervyn Thomas, Chief Executive of CSW, said: "With the EU's sanctions being so weak and ineffective, it is time now for the UK to show the moral courage and leadership required by banning investment in Burma through British territories. Failure to do so is tantamount to giving the Generals the money to buy more arms to continue to slaughter their people. Burma's junta is guilty of crimes against humanity, and violates all basic human rights, including religious freedom. Continuing to allow investment risks makes the UK complicit with those crimes."

John Bercow MP, Chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Democracy in Burma, added his support to calls for a British ban on investment in Burma. John Bercow visited Internally Displaced People in Karen State, Burma, with CSW in 2004 and interviewed victims of human rights violations.

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