Friday, September 28, 2007

Burma

Put these companies on your shit list.

8 comments:

Andrew Haydon said...

Clsoe my account with Singapore's oldest bank???

I do wonder if boycotting companies is the way forward. Surely the more Western, democratic leverage there is on the country, the more likely it is to gradually change into something we find more agreeable (even if, in many cases, that isn't what these companies wholly represent).

I know it's a well-rehearsed argument, but I do wonder if it holds some water. Feel free to now shoot me down in flames.

wilko said...

I dont understand why a company investing in a country should count as 'western democratic leverage'.

For a start plewnty of those companies are not western or from democracies. Secondly there is nothing to suggest that those countries are either democratic in the way they operate or interested in creating democracy in the places in which they operate.

One of the problems with investing in Burma is that the military regime still carries on with an asian tradition of compelling its citizens to work for the state (not other country in the area does this any more as it isa a form of slavery). They do this to buiild the infrastructre and factories that western companies then rely on.

Aung San Suu Kyi the democratically elected leader of Burma who has been under house arrest for the last 17 years (one and off) has called for a tourism boycott of the contry and for financial disinvestment in order to weakne the regime peacefully.

There are some reasons not to invest and to boycott those companies that do.

Andrew Haydon said...

I totally take your point - but isn't it through companies like Yahoo and Google and so on going into China that China becomes slightly less closed off from the outside world, and so more subject to the proper scrutiny of human rights organisations, and therefore ultimately under more pressure to discontinue their more unpleasant treatment of their citizens.

I'm not putting this argument as a fait accompli, but I'm genuinely interested in how the two things are squared.

It partially reminds me of that thing someone said about how to win power from liberals - essentially to outrage them until they boycott or quit in disgust (cf. Germany circa 1933, or thereabouts - I forget the details). Isn't it easier to push for potential reforms from within? Therefore, isn't it counter-productive to boycott (at least our) firms which could more usefully be lobbied to press for such changes? I know business don't have a great track record for such things, but increasing drives toward ethical consumerism and the apparent power of the green pound do seem to be starting to make changes.

danbye said...

Yahoo and Google "went into" China in the sense that they were on the internet and the internet was available in China. That is "was", because Google backed down to Chinese pressure, did what they said they'd never do, and altered their code to allow the Chinese authorities power to decide what could and could not be accessed in China. Now obviously, the internet being the internet, there are ways around this, but Google colluded in making it as difficult as possible to find, eg, articles critical of the regime.

Their shortcomings aside, what Yahoo and Google did [i]not[/i] do was invest in China in any way that would enable money to accrue to the regime - which is what every company on the list Alex links to is doing, except for those ones that are just using forced and child labour from the country in order to maximise the money that accrues to them.

alexf said...

andrew - just to be clear, are you arguing against ethical consumerism because the "increasing drive towards ethical consumerism" is working, so ethical consumers had best not stop buying the stuff that companies produce in case they start paying attention to ethical consumers?

You're also quite cute.

alexf said...

more here:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/story/0,,2181658,00.html

Ian Shuttleworth said...

Publishers whose guide books "help facilitate tourism" to the country? Tenuous much? I presume that "helps facilitate" is distinct from "encourages", a term used elsewhere on the list, and my educated guess is that what they mean is that those books carry information that would be of use to visitors. If this is the case, well, call me Quisling, but I can't condone the suppression of information, I can't condone a stance that advocates ignorance on ethical grounds.

wilko said...

Aung San Suu Kyi explicitely asks for a tourism boycott fo the country and thre Lonely PLanet used to report this in their book but then they stopped doing so. That, I think, is why people got cross with them.