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Date: Mon, 5 May 97 09:22:32 CDT
Subject: Free Burma Digest (May 3): NLD - 1997 Workers Day (Mayday)
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Subject: Free Burma Digest (May 3): NLD - 1997 Workers Day (Mayday) From: Caroline Lurie <>

Burmese students slam oil firms complicity with SLORC

By Rita Patiyasevi, The Nation (Bangkok), 2 May 1997

SCORES of Thai and Burmese students yesterday protested against human rights abuses in Burma and condemned three international oil companies for allegedly encouraging the continued use of forced labour through their investment in the country.

In observing international Labour Day, students brandished placards and posters outside the Burmese Embassy on South Sathron Road calling on the American oil company Unocal, the French company Total and the Petroleum Authority of Thailand (PTT)to recognise the workers' suffering and hardship and terminate their operations in Burma.

"May Day," one activist declared.

Four student groups were involved the All Burma Basic Educations Students Union, the Overseas National Students Organisation of Burma, the Student Federation of Thailand and the Action for Social Students group at Ramkhamhaeng University.

They roundly condemned the ruling Burmese junta, the State Law and Order Restoration Council (Slorc), for neglecting workers' rights and accused the oil companies of dealing illicitly with an unlawful government, ruling without the consent of the Burmese people, "All Burmese these natural gas plans give power to the military regime to suck more blood from the people and take further advantage of the Burmese people," they said in a prepared statement. Forced and unpaid labour, equivalent to slavery, was being used to lay gas pipelines. Ethnic women were also being abused and used as sex workers.

Aung Myo Min, an activist, said workers in Burma had no labour rights under Slorc.

"We want the international community to help stop the practice of forced labour and we particularly call upon Unocal, Total and PTT to stop the practice. They do not care about human rights, only about petro-dollars," he said.

The activist said the students of the Burmese pro-democracy movement were encouraged by the United States' announcement of economic sanctions against the ruling junta and forwarded a congratulatory letter to President Bill Clinton last week. "We think Asean should delay its decision to admit Burma into the organisation and should take a wait and see approach," Aung Myo Min said. It was too soon to admit Burma this year. He said student activists and pro-democracy movement groups planned to launch a protest campaign in various Asean capitals next week seeking to delay Rangoon's admission to the regional grouping.

"The supporters of the pro-democracy movement will begin a series of protests against Slorc and call on Asean countries to review their decision in admitting Burma to the organisation this year," he said. Burma's top general yesterday urged workers to "crush" forces seeking to block investment. In a May Day message published on the front page of the official New Light of Myanmar, Senior General Than Shwe, chairman of the ruling junta, said the threat came both from inside and outside the country.

He mentioned no names, but his mention of efforts to discourage investment were seen as a clear reference to the US announcement last week of a ban on new investment last week of a ban on new investment in Burma, as a protest against human rights abuses.

Foreign efforts to hinder Burma's development were supported by colonialist "lackeys" inside the country and by government opponents who had fled abroad and had also resorted to "destructive and terrorist acts", he said.

Burma faced a "danger of internal and external destructive elements in political, economic and social spheres," Than Shwe added.

These elements were trying to "prevent and hinder the flow of technology and investment form outside that will provide the workers with skills and technological know-how, improve their living standards and contribute towards national development".

"It is time to oppose and crush the stooges of the colonialists who are obstructing improvement of the workers' living conditions and jeopardying national development," Than Shwe said.

May Day is a holiday in Burma.