Monday, July 16, 2012

U.S. disclosure requirements do not go far enough: ERI

Monday, 16 July 2012 13:59 Mizzima News

(Commentary) – While the US government has announced that US companies may now invest in partnership with Burma’s state-owned Myanma Oil and Gas Enterprise (MOGE), EarthRights International (ERI) has warned that foreign investments in the oil and gas sector and in ethnic minority areas continue to be linked to corruption, human rights abuses, environmental destruction and forced displacement of communities.

With these concerns in mind, ERI said it gave the US government credit for including a number of measures that ERI said are critical for companies to avoid being complicit in abuses – including prohibitions on doing business with or making payments to the military. It also supported reporting requirements on key issues that have been linked to corruption and human rights abuses in Burma such as payments made to the Burmese government, land acquisition and resettlement practices and security arrangements.

But ERI said the U.S. disclosures do not go far enough.

“Moving forward, we urge U.S. companies considering investing in Burma to think carefully about the risks in engaging in activities which will contribute to human rights and environmental abuses, or that provide support to the Burmese military,” said Ka Hsaw Wa, executive director of EarthRights International, “Similarly, if the protective measures in the general licenses are to have any impact at all, the U.S. government must be willing to thoroughly investigate and enforce compliance, as well as work with European partners, NGO allies and the companies themselves to promote best practices and public disclosure.”

Meanwhile, ERI said it would work with organizations and communities in Burma to ensure that local people know about and understand how to use the tools provided in the general business license, which will be crucial in helping them to hold companies and the Burmese government accountable.

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