as Accor quits Burma, more companies move inDecember 2002
The world’s largest hotel chain has become the latest company to withdraw from Burma.
Accor, which runs more than 3700 hotels in 90 countries, has announced that it will close its two establishments in Rangoon and Mandalay as soon as possible.
Although the company has been one of many targeted by campaign groups for its involvement in Burma, where a military junta has been accused of persistent human rights abuses, Accor has not explicitly said its withdrawal is connected to concerns about the regime in the country.
The oil company Premier and lingerie manufacturer Triumph both recently pulled out of Burma (also known as Myanmar), but the number of companies with links to the country has grown in recent years, according to the Brussels-based International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU).
It has just published a list of 325 companies – 92 more than in 2000, when the list was last compiled – which either have business links with Burma, have been in direct contact with Burmese officials, ‘or promote tourism in the country’.
Among those new to the list are the British American Tobacco subsidiary Rothmans in a joint venture with Union of Myanmar Economic Holdings, which is owned by the military regime; Suzuki, which the union claims has a ‘sizeable investment’ in car and motorcycle manufacture; and French firm Pinault-Printemps-Redoute, which imports clothes made in Burma.
Other companies cited include Daewoo, Hyundai and LG Electronics.
ICFTU claims that ‘the very fact of doing business with Burma provides support to the Burmese military dictatorship’.
However, many companies with links to Burma strongly deny their presence in the country is detrimental.
TotalFinaElf, which was fiercely criticized by ICFTU last month for its involvement in a joint venture project to build the Yadana gas pipeline in Burma, said the federation was using ‘truncated and oversimplified arguments’ as well as ‘totally false allegations’ about the use of forced labour and the relocation of villages.
‘We have never denied that forced labour has been in use in Burma, but we have been in full control of our operations in this country from start to finish, and have conducted the project in accordance with our usual requirements regarding the people employed on our projects,’ it said, adding that no villages had been relocated as a result of the project.
The French oil company claims that it has built schools and health centres for communities living near the pipeline, set up agricultural projects, and refurbished churches and pagodas.
‘We believe that playing a part in development now is helping the country and its society to progress,’ it said.
Aung San Suu Kyi, leader of Burma’s democracy movement, has called on firms to stay out of the country, saying they fund the junta and keep it in power.
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