[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index
BURMA DOMINATES UNOCAL MEETING
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE CONTACT: Dr. Carol Richards Burma Forum Los Angeles
(310) 451-4493 carichards@xxxxxxxxx
CONCERNS ABOUT BURMA PIPELINE DOMINATE UNOCAL ANNUAL MEETING
Protesters Outside Parade Giant Effigies of CEO Beach and Burmese General
Brea, CA -- May 24, 1999 -- Controversy raged in Unocal's Annual meeting
today as shareholders confronted CEO Roger Beach with accounts of forced
labor and other human rights abuses, as well as poor planning and
inefficiency connected to the company's Yadana pipeline project, which was
intended to bring natural gas from Burma to Thailand.
In front of the meeting venue, 12 ft. tall moving puppet-like effigies of
the CEO and a gun-toting General of Burma's ruling junta "greeted" meeting
attendees and exchanged handshakes with bloodstained hands. [PHOTOS
AVAILABLE] Refugees from Burma displayed a banner reading "Unocal: A New
Breed of Corporate Greed!"
Mr. Larry Dohrs, of the Free Burma Coalition, presented a resolution
(which received a 7.1 percent shareholder vote) calling for an accounting
of the effects of Unocal's Burma involvement. Citing reports by the
International Labor Organization and US Dept. of Labor about the
pervasiveness of forced labor in the region where Unocal's pipeline cuts
across Burma, Mr. Dohrs commented, "You just don't make money on the backs
of forced laborers, not in the modern world." Addressing Mr. Beach and the
three members of the Board of Directors who attended the meeting, Mr.
Dohrs continued, "You will be held to account, and it will not take fifty
years, because the institutional frameworks that will hold you accountable
are now stronger than ever."
Dr. Pyi Nyein, an exiled Burmese dissident, said of the pipeline area
residents, "All they know is fear. Your pipeline project has brought my
people such a terrible heartbreak that many thousands of people have to
flee the area." Mr. Beach responded to his comments with: "Your facts are
not the facts that predominate in that region." Mr. Ka Hsaw Wa, a human
rights researcher from Burma who raised similar accusations at last year's
Unocal meeting, which were similarly dismissed, was recently the recipient
of both the Reebok Human Rights Award and the prestigious Goldman
Unocal's Yadana pipeline project has been dogged by negative publicity,
which was extensively cited in the meeting, as well as by substantial
delays in coming online. Father Joe La Mar of the Maryknoll Fathers and
Brothers Corporate Social Responsibility program asked: "The power plant
is not on line, there's a token production of gas, comments are that it's
not as high-valued as it was expected to be. Also Thailand's need for gas
and oil for power is considerably reduced." Thailand, the recipient of
the pipeline's gas has been widely reported to be experiencing a "gas
glut." In response, Mr. Beach admitted, "We need to get that gas flowing."
Recent annual meetings of Burma-involved European oil companies, Total
(France), Fina (Belgium), and Premier (UK) were also dominated by Burma
protests amid a growing European boycott movement. The major US oil
companies, Texaco, Amoco and ARCO, have all left Burma, leaving Unocal
conspicuous by its presence in a reviled military dictatorship. Ms. Vicki
Middleton, wife of a senior ARCO executive spoke of ARCO's experience:
"They got out of Burma, they became a more desirable company."
Shareholders also referred to the ongoing petition by California citizens?
groups and State Senator Tom Hayden, calling for the revocation of
Unocal's corporate charter because of a clear pattern of environmental
irresponsibility and ties to human rights violations. They also mentioned
that Unocal was recently ranked dead last for environmental performance in
a study of 13 leading oil companies by Innovest Strategic Value Advisors,
a Wall Street firm. Unocal's pollution of villages in East Kalimantan
(Indonesian Borneo) was also commented on in the meeting.
# # #