Monday, October 8, 2007

Protest Chevron - 2

Chevron Protest 2
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1. Here is an article posted by Amy Goodman:
2. Please read below for more instructions with more supporting info on how to help the efforts in Burma.

Chevron's Pipeline Is the Burmese Regime's Lifeline
By Amy Goodman, King Features Syndicate. Posted October 3, 2007.

The barbarous military regime depends on revenue from the nation’s gas reserves and partners such as Chevron, a detail ignored by the Bush administration.

The image was stunning: tens of thousands of saffron-robed Buddhist monks marching through the streets of Rangoon [also known as Yangon], protesting the military dictatorship of Burma. The monks marched in front of the home of Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi, who was seen weeping and praying quietly as they passed. She hadn't been seen for years. The democratically elected leader of Burma, Suu Kyi has been under house arrest since 2003. She is considered the Nelson Mandela of Burma, the Southeast Asian nation renamed Myanmar by the regime.

After almost two weeks of protest, the monks have disappeared. The monasteries have been emptied. One report says thousands of monks are imprisoned in the north of the country.

No one believes that this is the end of the protests, dubbed "The Saffron Revolution." Nor do they believe the official body count of 10 dead. The trickle of video, photos and oral accounts of the violence that leaked out on Burma's cellular phone and Internet lines has been largely stifled by government censorship. Still, gruesome images of murdered monks and other activists and accounts of executions make it out to the global public. At the time of this writing, several unconfirmed accounts of prisoners being burned alive have been posted to Burma-solidarity Web sites.

The Bush administration is making headlines with its strong language against the Burmese regime. President Bush declared increased sanctions in his U.N. General Assembly speech. First lady Laura Bush has come out with perhaps the strongest statements. Explaining that she has a cousin who is a Burma activist, Laura Bush said, "The deplorable acts of violence being perpetrated against Buddhist monks and peaceful Burmese demonstrators shame the military regime."

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, at the meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, said, "The United States is determined to keep an international focus on the travesty that is taking place." Keeping an international focus is essential, but should not distract from one of the most powerful supporters of the junta, one that is much closer to home. Rice knows it well: Chevron.

Fueling the military junta that has ruled for decades are Burma's natural gas reserves, controlled by the Burmese regime in partnership with the U.S. multinational oil giant Chevron, the French oil company Total and a Thai oil firm. Offshore natural gas facilities deliver their extracted gas to Thailand through Burma's Yadana pipeline. The pipeline was built with slave labor, forced into servitude by the Burmese military.

The original pipeline partner, Unocal, was sued by EarthRights International for the use of slave labor. As soon as the suit was settled out of court, Chevron bought Unocal.

Chevron's role in propping up the brutal regime in Burma is clear. According to Marco Simons, U.S. legal director at EarthRights International: "Sanctions haven't worked because gas is the lifeline of the regime. Before Yadana went online, Burma's regime was facing severe shortages of currency. It's really Yadana and gas projects that kept the military regime afloat to buy arms and ammunition and pay its soldiers."

The U.S. government has had sanctions in place against Burma since 1997. A loophole exists, though, for companies grandfathered in. Unocal's exemption from the Burma sanctions has been passed on to its new owner, Chevron.

Rice served on the Chevron board of directors for a decade. She even had a Chevron oil tanker named after her. While she served on the board, Chevron was sued for involvement in the killing of nonviolent protesters in the Niger Delta region of Nigeria. Like the Burmese, Nigerians suffer political repression and pollution where oil and gas are extracted and they live in dire poverty. The protests in Burma were actually triggered by a government-imposed increase in fuel prices.

Human-rights groups around the world have called for a global day of action on Saturday, Oct. 6, in solidarity with the people of Burma. Like the brave activists and citizen journalists sending news and photos out of the country, the organizers of the Oct. 6 protest are using the Internet to pull together what will probably be the largest demonstration ever in support of Burma. Among the demands are calls for companies to stop doing business with Burma's brutal regime.

Those familiar with the Yadana pipeline and the lawsuit should read Chevron's statement before calling, so you can tell them it is not good enough.

The main answer re violence in Myanmar
Thanks for your wishes for the violence to end. Presuming it was directed at the people carrying out the violence, they are Chevron's business partner. When someone tells the regime to stop killing, but keeps giving them money, wouldn't you agree that it's a mixed message?

Answer re Chevron's projects: Chevron can always give to charity
Chevron doesn't have to fund a military regime in order to give to charity. They can still give to charity and pull out of the partnership. Chevron is talking about financial support. Chevron employees aren't teaching at schools or running medical intervention in Burma. A better charity might be Dr. Cynthia's clinic, which has provided medical services to thousands fleeing the pipeline area.

Answer re Chevron providing energy in "the region": Chevron is not bringing gas to Burma
It is disturbing to see Chevron asserting that they bring much needed energy to millions of people "in the region", when all of the recent bloodshed might have been averted if Chevron had only engaged in a deal to generate fuel and electricity inside of Burma. None of the electricity "in the region" is reaching those to whom the gas rightfully belongs - it's going to Thailand. And the money generated from Thailand only goes to the generals in Burma. It is their lifeline.

Simple answer #3: Chevron's pipeline security and SPDC forces are the same
The security forces protecting Chevron's pipeline and the military forces carrying out human rights violations are one and the same. Any time Chevron and Total personnel are not directly present, these battalions are violating human rights and preventing people from accessing their own resources, to say nothing of the infrastructure Chevron references. Therefore, Chevron is not bringing peace to the region.

Supporting details
Since Unocal first described the pipeline plan in the early 1990s, human rights reports drawn from personal experiences, eyewitnesses, and with actual printed orders from military commanders, have followed the same fundamental pattern encompassing the following orders to village headmen:
- provide rice and livestock to government troops
- provide labor on infrastructure projects, which included clearing the pipeline route
- provide porter service to the military, carrying loads that often exceed 60 lbs.

Porters are often moved to the front of the soldiers, dressed in military gear to trigger ambushes and also to serve as "human minesweepers."

These orders are often described along with an optional cash payment in place of the requested provision. If able-bodied men are not available, they will take women, children and the elderly. In numerous cases if a villager became to exhausted to porter, they were simply shot on the spot. Village headmen who could not provide what was in the written orders have been tortured and summarily executed in the presence of the other villagers.

Consider the helipads
You may have seen the helipads becoming central to the court case Doe v. Unocal in the film "Total Denial". In court, judges found it impossible to believe that the helipads, the pipeline and the increased military presence and accompanying human rights violations were not all intertwined. Further to the helipad issue, this occurred while the pipeline was still being constructed:

In Los Angeles, we presented Unocal with reports from people who were taken as forced laborers to prepare the helipads for the pipeline project. Weeks later, villagers told human rights workers about being brought into Total's fenced-in area. There, Total personnel recorded their names and provided them with payments. Whether Total was making a good faith effort to prevent forced labor, or was making a good faith effort to refute forced labor claims, it was neither helpful nor effective.

Once the villagers left the compound and were outside of the view of Total employees, they would be hit up by pipeline security forces, who knew exactly how much money they'd been given. They had to give all of the money to these soldiers. So in actuality, forced labor became a new enterprise that Unocal (now Chevron) brought to the Burmese military.


A future action on Chevron could be a day for cutting up Chevron cards, and call it "Four Cuts on Chevron" - a springboard for us to present the army's "four cuts" policy as it impacted Tenasserim Division and the rest of Eastern Burma.



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