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Oil Giant Chevron Urged to Cut Ties with Burmese Military Junta
Friday, October 12, 2007 : Chevron is one of the largest foreign investors in Burma and is the only remaining major U.S. corporation with a significant presence there. In 2005, Chevron bought the company Unocal weeks after the latter settled a lawsuit accusing it of assisting the Burmese military junta in the torture, murder and rape of villagers during construction of a pipeline. We play excerpts of the documentary Total Denial and speak to Katherine Redford, one of the attorneys who brought the suit.
As the United Nations Security Council condemns the Burmese military junta, calls are increasing for foreign multinational companies to stop working with the Burmese military government. In the United States, much of the criticism has been focused on the California-based oil company Chevron. Chevron is one of the largest foreign investors in Burma and is the only remaining major U.S. corporation with a significant presence there.
Chevron is partners with the French oil company Total in operating a natural gas pipeline from Burma to Thailand. Chevron became involved in the project in 2005 when it bought the oil company Unocal, which helped build the pipeline. Eleven years ago, the group EarthRights International sued Unocal on behalf of 15 Burmese villagers. The lawsuit accused Unocal of assisting the Burmese military junta in the torture, murder and rape of villagers during construction of the pipeline. Unocal settled the lawsuit out of court. Weeks later, Chevron bought Unocal. Chevron has been allowed to continue to operate in Burma despite U.S. sanctions. This is because a loophole exists for companies grandfathered in. Unocal's exemption from the Burma sanctions was passed on to its new owner.
In a moment we will be joined by Katherine Redford, one of the attorneys who brought the suit against Unocal. But first I want to turn to excerpts of a documentary about the lawsuit. It is called Total Denial. The film features interviews with some of the Burmese villagers who sued Unocal.