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Chevron and Myanmar’s Military Junta

What news of Myanmar/Burma? A couple months ago we were aghast at the news: peaceful activists led by monks were brutally arrested, beaten, killed, ‘disappeared’ in the night. Their crime? Taking a non-violent stand against the military junta that runs their country.

It’s stomach sickening. And since the military regime has clamped down on communication coming out from the country, it may still be happening. There is no news because there is no news getting Out.

In September, I received an email from a friend to sign an online petition. I hesitated. Signing a petition to the U.N. isn’t alone going to make me feel much better. That night I found the source of the deeper hesitancy: I had a nightmare that U.S. forces were bombing Burma in order to liberate it. And true, that’s not likely to happen, but it put a bad taste in my mouth nevertheless.

I’m not really a ‘fight the bad guys’ kind of person, I’m more of an ‘attract others into harmlessness’ kind of gal.

Regardless, what Can we, living in the U.S. do to help?

Aung San Suu Khii, nobel prize winner living under house arrest in Burma, has formulated very simple requests of the international community. Among them “do not financially support the military junta”. Easy enough, right? Not quite.

Here’s the scoop. There’s a big petroleum pipeline running through Burma. A French company owns 1/3, a Thai company owns 1/3, and Chevron owns 1/3. To be even clearer, one article about this is entitled: “Chevron’s pipeline is the Burmese Regime’s Lifeline.” And since I’m not living in France or Thailand, I look to Chevron. Chevron pays the military junta, which coincidentally, destroys villages and forces the villagers to work on the project (aka Slavery). Chevron, or the military junta, says things like “well, we’re not exactly forcing them to work on the mumble mumble, and as far as shooting them down mumble mumble.” I’m inclined to believe the villager’s side of the story.

So I told my friends about this, and about my plans to boycott Chevron in disgust. My friends said “Well, that’s easy enough for You to say. But you can’t boycott something you’re already boycotting.” (I don’t drive a car. Chevron hasn’t seen a dime of mine in years. Since it’s open 24 hours though I guess I could Potentially break down for a 3am bag of sunchips, but it hasn’t happened yet…).

Nevertheless, I put some sidewalk chalk in my pocket and walked over to chat with the Chevron cashier. He wasn’t exactly thrilled to hear the Chevron-Burma connection, as you can imagine. Or to see me chalk it out on the sidewalk, though it was may have been his biggest entertainment that night. (I wrote “Help the Burmese People, Boycott Chevron”, and since it’s the sidewalk it’s a legal kind of interference.)

Anyhow, How your neighborhood Chevron works: Each store is a franchise that may be owned by the person behind the counter. I’m not upset at that person at all, I’m disgusted with the Chevron corporation. Luckily, the franchise owner gets 98% of their profit Not from the gas but from the snack shop. So, potentially, boycotting gas but still buying snacks doesn’t really harm them.

I envision the franchise owners sending an email to their Chevron guy saying: “Noone is buying gas! They come in for beer and tell me they don’t like Chevron’s marriage to Burma’s military regime, and I can’t help but agree!”

Or we could send that email ourselves too, say at comment@chevron.com. (Boycotting only works so far as the right people know what’s happening. There are currently tons of reasons to boycott gasoline, and it gets confusing for the CEO’s maybe).

And sure, this is only one town, or a few, as far as this boycott goes. But the thing about the Chevron-Burma connection is that a lot of U.S.Americans just don’t know about it. Why isn’t that in the news?

(I could begin speculating, but that’s a separate column…)

Well, we could just start spreading the word to people who won’t see this article.

A government that goes into monasteries in the middle of the night to beat people up has something Seriously wrong with it. And, blue-red politics aside, I think we can all agree on this, right? I mean, I haven’t Heard anyone saying they think the junta is doing a good job or being awfully nice or anything, right?

Hm, Chevron. Is getting oil through a lousy pipeline really important enough to warrant killing, arresting, and silencing hundreds of innocent people? If it’s So important that you must do this in order to get gas into our tanks, then I say “We don’t want it!”

May it harm none.

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Page last modified on January 31, 2008, at 03:01 PM