Thursday, November 01, 2007

Burma Crisis Update: An Open Letter to the Executives of Chevron

Sold To Be Soldiers: The Recruitment and Use of Child Soldiers in Burma, Human Rights Watch

One boy told Human Rights Watch that he was forcibly recruited at age 11, despite being only 1.3 meters tall (4’3”) and weighing less than 31 kilograms (70 pounds). Officers at recruitment centers routinely falsify enlistment records to list children as 18, the minimum legal age for recruitment.
Recruiters target children at train and bus stations, markets and other public places, and often threaten them with arrest if they refuse to join the army. Some children are beaten until they agree to “volunteer.”
Human Rights Watch, 10-31-07

Burma Crisis Update: An Open Letter to the Executives of Chevron

By Richard Power

Yes, peak oil production has come and gone.

Yes, the burning of fossil fuels is contributing to the destruction of the planet's climate.

Yes, the two delusional oil men in the White House are willing to risk WWW III to seize Iran's fields and add them to those they have already occupied in Iraq.

But let's put all that aside for a few moments.

I am writing to you about your choice to continue doing business with the Burmese thugocracy.

Do you understand that your gas is being piped out with the spilled blood of monks and the shattered psyches of child soldiers?

Are you really OK with this situation?

Which world do you live in?

Do you live in the world where the diamonds are worn, or in the world where the diamonds are mined in mountains patrolled by child soldiers?

Do you live in the world where the chocolate is consumed, or in the world where the chocolate is picked by child slaves?

In the early days of the current crackdown, you issued a statement saying that your business dealings with the Burmese thugocracy are benefiting the lives of hundreds of thousands of people, and that, furthermore, if you left, another energy giant would simply take your place.

How terribly sad for you. How little you understand about the life all around you and how intricately interconnected it all is.

Here is what your statement should have said:

Unfortunately, although Chevron's business interests in Burma benefit several hundred thousand people directly, our continued support of this gangster regime contributes to the misery of over forty million other people. Although when we withdraw, our place will simply be taken up by another energy company, we cannot allow ourselves to be associated with such cruelty and oppression any longer.

Here are some excerpts from Human Right Watch's statement, with a link to the full text:

Burmese military recruiters target children in order to meet unrelenting demands for new recruits due to continued army expansion, high desertion rates and a lack of willing volunteers. Non-state armed groups, including ethnic-based insurgent groups, also recruit and use child soldiers, though in far smaller numbers.
“The brutality of Burma’s military government goes beyond its violent crackdown on peaceful protestors,” said Jo Becker, children’s rights advocate for Human Rights Watch. “Military recruiters are literally buying and selling children to fill the ranks of the Burmese armed forces.”
Based on an investigation in Burma, Thailand and China, the 135-page report, “Sold to Be Soldiers: The Recruitment and Use of Child Soldiers in Burma,” found that military recruiters and civilian brokers receive cash payments and other incentives for each new recruit, even if the recruit clearly violates minimum age or health standards. ...
“The government’s senior generals tolerate the blatant recruitment of children and fail to punish perpetrators,” said Becker. “In this environment, army recruiters traffic children at will.” ... “The government’s committee to address child recruitment is a sham,” said Becker. “Instead of denouncing credible reports of child recruitment, the government must address the issue head-on. It needs to demobilize all of the children in its forces, and end all recruitment of children.”
Human Rights Watch, 10-31-07

Some Burma-Related Words of Power Posts

Burma Crisis Update: Two Weeks Into the Crackdown, China Has Not Tempered the Thugocracy's Hand; Chevron Has Not Even Slapped Its Wrist

Human Rights Update 10-6-07: Chevron, Condoleeza Rice & the Burmese Thugocracy

Human Rights Update: Blackwater, Burma, Darfur & You

Human Rights Watch to Business: "Keeping quiet while monks & other peaceful protesters are murdered & jailed is not ... constructive engagement."

Human Rights Update: Blackwater, Burma, Darfur & You

Hard Rain Journal 9-27-07: Aung San Suu Kyi was Elected in 1990, Al Gore was Elected in 2000 -- Consider What Has Befallen Both Countries Since

Hard Rain Journal 9-27-07: Bush, Ahmadinejad and the Monks of Burma -- Illuminating Contrasts

Human Rights Update 9-24-07: Don't Miss the Multiple Meanings of this Moment in Burma

Human Rights Update 9-23-07: Will You Step Outside & Join the Burmese in 15 Minutes of Prayer?

GS(3) Thunderbolt 9-14-07: In Pakistan, the Dharma Repels an Attack; In Burma, the Dharma Sparks an Uprising

Human Rights Update 6-12-07: Remember Aung San Suu Kyi, Honor Her Sacrifice, Reflect on Your Own Freedom & What You Choose to Do With It

Hard Rain Journal 1-8-07: Human Rights and Environmental Security Update from Burma, Cambodia and Mekong River

Words of Power #24: Lost Symbols, Part One – Aung San Suu Kyi, AQ Khan, & The World Tree

NOTE: Cynthia Boaz is providing some great coverage on the Burma crisis at Click here.

For more on the international dimension of this problem, here are some resources:

Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers

Amnesty International - Child Soldiers

Human Rights Watch -- Child Soldiers

Some Child Soldier Related Posts

Child Soldiers: Planetary Problem Persists, Burma Now Worst Case; Meanwhile, in the World's Mega-Slums, Millions More Go Uncounted & Unacknowledged

Human Rights Update (6-26-07) -- A Victory for Child Soldiers in Sierra Leone, But What About the Child Soldiers in the Streets of the USA?

UN Millennium Goals Update 5-30-07: In the Struggle to Empower Women & Children -- Very Good News, Very Bad News, & A Dose of Reality

Hard Rain Journal 4-21-07: Human Rights Update -- In War and Poverty, Children Forsaken on a Planetary Scale

Hard Rain Journal 12-4-06: Human Rights Update -- Unless You Protect Women, Children and Indigenous Peoples, You Cannot Achieve Real Security

Words of Power #17: Harry Potter and the Night Commuters

Words of Power #3: Gangstas = Child Soldiers Without A Country

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