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Protest at Total sponsoring French Film Festival

Awyame | 07.03.2008 01:43 | Anti-militarism | Repression | Social Struggles | London

Eight protesters demonstrated on Tuesday March 4th at the French Film Festival at London Cine Lumiere 17 Queensberry Place London. The protest was against Total sponsorship as the largest western sponsor of the brutal Burma military junta, not against the festival or the French films being shown. "Priceless" was the first film being shown and its amiable director Pierre Salvadori was shocked to learn that Total was sponsoring the festival.

French Film Director shocked at Total sponsorship of French Film Festival
French Film Director shocked at Total sponsorship of French Film Festival

At first one of the festival organisers tried to claim that the film was not part of the Festival and that their web site showing that it was part of the festival in the listing with all the other films was wrong. Although a week before the main festival, it was clearly a flagship event for the festival (with French ambassador apparently attending). We did explain that our protest was against Total sponsorship and not the festival itself. We displayed a banner with "French Films" with a tick and "Total Sponsor" with a cross, to try to make the point that the protest was against Total as sponsors of the brutal Burma dictatorship not French films.

We were able to leaflet those attending the film and Total was not very popular amongst some of the French attendees who already knew of Total's support for the junta.

"Priceless" with Audrey Tautou (of Amélie and Da Vinci Code fame) was the first film being shown. The film blurb says "She only dated men with money... until she met a man with heart". For storyline see It has a release date of 13 June 2008 in UK (see

The director Pierre Salvadori was speaking at the showing of "Priceless" and came out of the cinema to chat to us. He was very gracious about our protest and pleased to see our banner had a tick in favour of French films. He was shocked to learn that Total was a sponsor of the French Film Festival and sympathetic to the plight of Burma. We were able to further chat with him at a nearby pub later and he very sportingly posed for us with the "Don't Forget Burma" cartoon bubble. We thank him for his support and wish him every success with his films.

We will also be visiting the French Film Festival next Friday when two films are being shown, with the last being attended by the director and one of the actors from the film. See below for details.

News from Burma Campaign
Willis Ceases Cover to Burma, Pressure Mounts on Insurers Operating in Burma.

The Burma Campaign UK welcomes the undertaking by the world's third largest insurance broker to end their involvement in Burma. The decision follows the company being placed on Burma Campaign's ‘Dirty List’ in 2004 and the creation of an advisory panel of insurance experts in November 2007. The 'Dirty List' exposes companies that are directly or indirectly helping to finance Burma's brutal military dictatorship. It is the official policy of the British Government to discourage trade and investment in Burma

Burma Campaign UK has today written to all insurance companies that operate out of the United Kingdom urging them to follow the example of Willis, Swiss RE and AON by ceasing to insure companies operating in Burma. The campaigning group has evidence that many other UK based insurers are providing cover to companies operating in Burma. Insurance companies operating in Burma face a public relations disaster as the Burma Campaign UK prepares to shine the spotlight on the role of the insurance industry in facilitating trade and investment with Burma’s brutal dictatorship.

"We are delighted that Willis has taken the principled decision to stop doing business in Burma. Today we call on all insurance companies to stop supporting the Burmese generals by covering the foreign companies that are the regime’s financial lifeline," said Johnny Chatterton, Campaigns Officer at The Burma Campaign UK. He continued "The world was shocked at the brutal repression of the peaceful protests last year, insurance companies must realise that by providing cover to companies operating in Burma they are helping to fund a dictatorship that uses rape, torture and murder to oppress its own people.”

Burma's democracy movement has called on companies not to invest in Burma, pointing to the fact that foreign investment and trade has enriched the regime, but not benefited most ordinary Burmese people. The regime spends around half its budget on the military and just 1.4% on education.

Naing Ko Ko, Secretary of International Campaign Dept. for the Federation of Trade Unions - Burma, also welcomed the news from Willis "We have repeatedly called on insurance companies to end their involvement in our military junta run country. They are not playing a positive role in our economy. They are helping to keep the military in power and so increasing poverty in Burma."

Willis joins a long list of over 100 companies that have ended their involvement in Burma in recent years following pressure from The Burma Campaign UK, including Swiss RE, AON, Rolls Royce, British American Tobacco, Premier Oil, WPP, PwC, and Carnival Corporation.

Total and Burma

A detailed report on Total Oil's involvement in Burma, written by Burma Campaign UK, can be downloaded at

Total is in a joint venture with the dictatorship in the Yadana gas project in southern Burma. [1]

The gas project funds the junta with hundreds of millions of dollars a year and represents a major source of foreign currency for the regime to buy weapons and finance the army.

Burma has the world's worst health care [2], the most corruption [3] and the most child soldiers [4].

Protests in London Next Week

Wednesday 12th March

Meet at Burma Embassy for normal daily Burmese protest
Myanmar/Burma Embassy 19A, Charles St, London W1J 5DX.
Tube: Green Park | Map:

Total London HQ, 33 Cavendish Square, London W1G 0PW
Tube: Oxford Circus | Map:

Thursday 13th March

Burma Human Rights Day
[Remembers the first student Maung Phone Maw murdered by the junta
on March 13th 1988 at a peaceful demonstration at
Rangoon Institute of Technology (RIT) at the start of the 1988
democracy protests in which thousands of demonstrators were later murdered]
12:00-1pm (Check for any change in times)
Myanmar/Burma Embassy 19A, Charles St, London W1J 5DX.
Tube: Green Park | Map:

Friday 14th March

Protest at Total sponsoring French Film Festival
(the protest is against Total, not the film festival or films being shown)
5:30pm - 9pm
Institut Francais
17 Queensberry Place London SW7 2DT
Tube: South Kensington Map:
(Two Films being shown: JUST ABOUT LOVE (15) 6:30pm
+ Q & A Jean Becker and Jean-Pierre Darroussin
Speakers are for 2nd film see )

Protests are held weekly but locations may change. For information and reports on protests in London and around the country please see

Make sure you've signed:

- The Burma Campaign UK e-action to TOTAL:
- The global pledge:
- Don't Forget Burma - send a photo message to the regime:

Burma Videos

Burma Campaign UK's video channel on YouTube:

- New to Burma? Watch these videos for a brief introduction
- This is Burma Music - U2, REM, Damien Rice, KT Tunstall...
- This is Burma: News and Documentaries - including Burma's Secret War
and Inside The Crackdown

Get TOTAL OIL out of Burma group on Facebook:

Recent Burma news: (see - read links for the full versions of stories)

Junta’s Piggy Bank Full as Economy Sinks

Economists predict a gloomy economy for Burma in 2008, but that won’t stop the generals from selling off the country’s natural resources

The Burmese military government’s incompetence and outside influences will further undermine Burma’s economy in 2008, experts forecast—but the generals should be able to keep their bank accounts topped up.

High global oil prices, financial mismanagement and the continuing aftershock of last year’s military crackdown will all conspire to make life harder for Burma’s already hard-pressed population.

“Nothing relating to the government’s budget will be any better in 2008. Indeed, it will be substantially worse,” said Sean Turnell, a Burma specialist at Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia, who also produces the Burma Economic Watch report.

This gloomy prediction follows similar reports on Burma’s 2008 prospects from both the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the Economist Intelligence Unit.

The IMF maintains that a 2007 year-end inflation rate of at least 35 percent is unlikely to ease in 2008 and may worsen.

Although Burma has abundant natural gas to sell, it has to rely almost entirely on imports to meet its fuel oil needs.

Ironically, hydrocarbons in the form of offshore natural gas help to keep the generals afloat. Gas sales to foreign buyers, primarily Thailand, have enabled the Burmese regime to build foreign exchange reserves of about $2 billion, said the IMF.

However, even as Western countries tighten economic sanctions which, among other consequences, have undermined tourism, foreign aid and trade continue to help prop up the regime.

“Quite obviously, the junta is unwilling to shoulder any blame for the country’s woes. Instead it has pointed fingers elsewhere, accusing countries which have imposed sanctions,” said a report by the Singapore Institute of International Affairs (SIIA).

“The government is likely to gain some economic breathing space with a 25-year, interest-free loan from Saudi Arabia,” the SIIA said.

The size of the Saudi loan and its intended purpose is unknown, although the SIIA speculates that it could be to assist electricity generation.

The loan follows a visit to Saudi Arabia last year by Burmese government officials and might be linked with offers by the junta to provide cheap Burmese labor to the Saudis.

Burma’s two giant neighbors, India and China, show no inclination of persuading the generals to reform, say analysts, preferring to use their influence to benefit their own rapidly growing economies.

Likewise, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) is making no attempt to try to implement its own standards on development and human rights, despite its professed intention to imitate European Union guidelines.

Despite widespread condemnation of the regime’s repressive policies, Asean has included Burma and Burmese airlines in its new “Visit Asean Pass” program aimed at “streamlining tourism in the area; allowing visitors to move with ease at a discounted price.”

That’s ironic, given the post-crackdown slump in tourism to Burma. But perhaps it’s the only way Asean can permit Burma a voice in its “inclusive” policy.

Myanmar Monk Tells Story of Killings

JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) -- A Myanmar monk called for a global weapons embargo on his country, telling human rights activists and foreign governments Thursday the junta's military leaders must not be allowed to use guns against his people again.

U Awbata said he struggles to shake memories of Myanmar soldiers opening fire on fellow monks, stomping on their heads and pummelling them with batons during protests last September.

The military generals have used their guns to crush and kill their own people," U Awbata said.

He called on the international community "to work together and urge those countries selling arms to Burma to stop doing so." Myanmar is also known as Burma.

"Violence and repression is still rampant in Burma but is no longer making media headlines," conference organizer and rights group Kontras said in a statement. The world must increase pressure on the regime "to democratize and put an end to its mass abuses."

Corrupt regime authorities aiding the spread of opium production in Shan State

The number of private producers of opium poppies has increased in Man Tong Township, Northern Shan State, Palaung area, according to a local source. The report is confirmed by The Palaung Women's Organization, based on Thai-Burma border in Mae Sot, which recently reported that opium production has become widespread since the Palaung Liberation Army gave up arms to the Burmese Army in 2005.

Many wealthy businessmen in Palaung Area, Man Tong Township, Shan State, are investing their money in the poppies, used to make lucrative drugs like opium and heroin. Most opium crops are grown in the hills, where they are not likely to be seen by local people, said the source, who recently left Palaung area to the Thai-Burma border area.

Many local people are afraid to grow opium crops because they fear government crack downs. While poorer or small-scale poppy farmers are likely to be arrested, the source from Shan state said that bribery means the larger projects of wealthy businessmen are rarely harassed. The local authorities know the location of opium crops, he said, but they do nothing.

Most people in the area can barely provide for their families, and work as laborers on the poppy farms for 2,000 kyat a day.

As the local businessman get rich, the people suffer. "Our community is broken. Young men and women are addicted opium. If a husband uses drugs, the wife cannot refuse him and she has to use opium too," said the source. "Finding opium in the area is easy.

Thailand to ink investment protection pact with Myanmar : Bangkok - While western democracies are mulling new sanctions on Myanmar, Thailand plans to sign an investment protection pact with the pariah state next week to promote Thai investments in the country, media reports said Wednesday.

Thai Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej will visit Myanmar on March 12 when he will witness the signing of the investment protection pact with Myanmar’s junta, said The Nation newspaper, quoting Matyawongse Amatyakul - Thailand’s commercial counsellor in Myanmar.

March 5, 2008

Pressure is mounting on the United Nation's Special Envoy to Burma to deliver results, with a London-based advocacy group preparing to label his mission as failed.

Barring any drastic changes in the Burmese junta's responses to overtures from Ibrahim Gambari, the United Nations Special Envoy to Burma, The Burma Campaign UK believes it will be time to acknowledge his efforts as failed and commence with a different approach.

The Special Envoy is expected to arrive in Burma tomorrow.

"If Gambari comes back with anything less than a date for genuine talks with Aung San Suu Kyi and ethnic groups, and a commitment for the release of all political prisoners, then his mission has failed," voiced Anna Roberts, Director of Burma Campaign UK, yesterday.

"Burma's generals think they can carry on with business as usual, and sadly the UN's soft peddling has reinforced that impression," continued Roberts.

Ethnic leaders: No expectations for Gambari's visit

Chiang Mai – Ethnic leaders in Burma do not expect significant progress toward national reconciliation from the forthcoming visit of the United Nations Special Envoy to Burma.

Aye Thar Aung, Secretary of the Committee Representing People's Parliament (CRPP), said, "We don't expect much from his visit. I don't think the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) will listen and accept what Mr. Gambari says and urges them to do at this moment."

"They have issued Announcements 1/2008 and 2/2008 which clearly show they will unilaterally go ahead with their own road-map. Talks between Mr. Gambari and Daw Aung San Suu Kyi will just be a superficial show," he added.

"The U.N. is not in a position to do anything for Burma at the moment. The international community can do nothing for Burma. There will be no regime change in this situation. Our ethnic leaders are under the constant surveillance of the regime. It's totally disappointing," U Thoung Ko Thang, Minister of Parliament elect from the Tamu constituency in Sagaing Division and leader of the United Nationalities Alliance (UNA), remarked.

Ethnic leaders have sent letters requesting a meeting with the U.N. representative during his visits to Burma. However, to date, Gambari has been unable to meet with ethnic leaders.

Anti-referendum posters in Central Burma

New Delhi – In a fresh act of defiance against the Burmese military junta, several anti-referendum and 'Free Burma' campaign posters were found in Amarapura township of Mandalay in central Burma, local residents said.

'Free Burma', 'Free Aung San Suu Kyi' and 'Free Dr. Zaw Myint Maung', MP from Amarapura constituency, who is serving a long prison term, were written with spray guns in palm sized red coloured letters, locals said.

Anti-referendum posters were also seen pasted on the walls of the State High School in Laysu Ward, opposite the Taungthaman Bridge and on the main street, the local said.

The ruling junta has announced holding a constitution approval referendum in May.

"The posters urged the people to boycott the forthcoming referendum and oppose the constitution for the future generation to be free from 46-years of military dictatorship," a local woman, who saw the posters, told Mizzima.

"I saw these posters on March 3 in the morning and they were stuck in an aluminium pot shop to Taungthaman Bridge. We heard that the posters were found elsewhere in Amarapura," another local resident said.

On the same day, a policeman along with three members of Union Solidarity and Development Association (USDA), the junta backed civil organization, came by on two motorcycles and removed all the posters and white washed the sprayed letters, the locals added.

"Despite white washing, the words 'Free Burma' can still be seen faintly. The letters say 2-3-2008 written by a spray gun," the second local resident said.

Calendar size portraits of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi wearing her party election campaign logo - bamboo hat - were also seen pasted in front of the State High School at the main gate and were also removed by the local authorities later.

Arakan Residents Petition ILO on Forced Labor Issues

More than 70 residents in Arakan State, western Burma, were questioned on Wednesday by officers of the Military Affairs Security department and Labor Ministry after reporting human rights abuses and incidents of forced labor to the International Labor Organization (ILO), according to local sources.

More than 70 citizens of Taunggok Township had signed a petition, claiming local authorities had committed acts of forced labor and extortion.

According to the Taunggok residents, in January, local authorities forced residents in the township to work as security guards. The authorities forcibly extorted between 3,000 and 10,000 kyat (US $2.74 to $9.13) from each person who refused to follow the order.

After questioning by the Military Affairs Security personnel, the residents who had signed the petition were forced to sign a counter document claiming that they had been coerced into petitioning the ILO, said Than Pe.

NLD member loses sight due to lack of treatment

Mar 5, 2008 (DVB)-A detained Mandalay division National League for Democracy member has gone blind in his left eye due to lack of treatment for problems arising after an attack last year, his wife said.

U Than Lwin, an NLD member and elected member of parliament from Maddaya township, was sent to Mandalay hospital from prison on 23 February to undergo an operation on his left eye, which was severely damaged during a knuckle-duster attack by an unknown assailant in mid-2007.

But doctors at the hospital said that it was already too late for them to save his sight in that eye, and he was sent back to prison on 29 February.

Than Lwin was attacked in June last year by a man with a knuckle-duster, who fled into the Union Solidarity and Development Association office after the attack.

He suffered harassment from USDA members while in hospital recovering from the attack, and was arrested on 2 September, allegedly in connection with commodity price protests.

Junta Increases Pressure on Media

Only two weeks after the Burmese military government closed the offices of the Myanmar Nation, the military authorities appear to be offering the publishers of the Rangoon-based weekly news journal the opportunity to start printing again, on condition that it toe the junta’s line and counter the exiled Burmese media.

According to a source close the Myanmar Nation, the government’s press scrutiny board director, Maj Tint Shwe, has been putting pressure on the Myanmar Nation’s publisher to restart operations by acting as a mouthpiece for the military regime and confronting exiled media groups which continuously expose the junta’s wrongdoings.

According to sources close to Burmese journalists working in Rangoon, a staff member at weekly journal The Voice is being forced to apologize to current Rangoon mayor Brig-Gen Aung Thein Lin for strongly challenging him during a recent press conference.

The press conference was reportedly called by the mayor himself. During the meeting, The Voice’s reporter contradicted statements the mayor had made about the recent crackdown on street vendors, which it is a hot issue in Rangoon at the movement. The question apparently infuriated the mayor and he threatened the journalist with imprisonment.

Three Burmese women activists honored

Chiang Mai – An international human rights organization today awarded the Homo Homini prize to three Burmese women pro-democracy activists.

The Czech-based People In Need human rights organization recognized the efforts and sacrifices of Ma Phyu Phyu Thinn, Ma Nilar Thein and Ma Suu Suu Nway. A representative for the ladies is to accept the award on behalf of those honored in a ceremony this evening.

"As soon as I knew the prize was awarded to us I recalled the martyrs, the monks and lay people who were brutally killed on the streets of Rangoon in the September uprising. And also I remembered my colleagues who are imprisoned. There are many unknown martyrs and democracy activists in Burma. I am very much gladdened to hear of a foreign country awarding the prize to Burmese democracy activists", Ma Nilar Thein, who is on the run from authorities, told Mizzima.


[1] Aung San Suu Kyi, Burma’s democracy leader, has said that “Total is the biggest supporter of the military regime in Burma.” For more information about Total Oil's investment in Burma see the Burma Campaign UK website:

[2] The World Health Organization's ranking
of the world's health systems:

[3] Burma joins Somalia in 179th place as the most corrupt countries in the world according to Transparency International 2007 index rankings:

[4] Human Rights Watch report on Child Soldiers in Burma:



Hide the following comment

Burma Human Rights Day March 13th times

12.03.2008 18:36

Times for Thursday's protests have changed and are now:

Thursday 13th March

Burma Human Rights Day
[Remembers the first student Maung Phone Maw murdered by the junta
on March 13th 1988 at a peaceful demonstration at
Rangoon Institute of Technology (RIT) at the start of the 1988
democracy protests in which thousands of demonstrators were later murdered]

BDMA-UK are holding a commemoration in memory of Ko Phone Maw and all those who sacrificed their lives in the struggle for Burma's freedom.
(Check for any changes )

BDMA-UK Burma Human Rights Day Events:
(1) Offering food and alms to monks and a brief presentation about Signature Campaign for all political prisoners in Burma.
Time: 10:00 to 12:00
Venue: London Vihara (Wembley Monastery)
1 Old Church Lane London NW9 8TG
Tube: Wembley Park | Map:

(2) Masked Demonstration
Time: 15:00 to 16:00
Myanmar/Burma Embassy 19A, Charles St, London W1J 5DX.
Tube: Green Park | Map:

Friday 14th March

Protest at Total sponsoring French Film Festival
(the protest is against Total, not the film festival or films being shown)
5:30pm - 9pm
Institut Francais
17 Queensberry Place London SW7 2DT
Tube: South Kensington Map:
(Two Films being shown: JUST ABOUT LOVE (15) 6:30pm
+ Q & A Jean Becker and Jean-Pierre Darroussin
Speakers are for 2nd film see )


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