A French energy giant that runs nuclear plants in Scotland has been added to a “dirty list” for working on a dam project in Burma that locals say could displace people and damage the environment.
EDF Group is one of 38 firms named by human rights group, Burma Campaign UK, for business contracts in Burma, also known as Myanmar. The firms are said to be linked to internal conflict and a Burmese military accused of genocide.
The big technology companies – Google, Apple and Huawei – have also been listed as campaigners mark two years since a Burmese military attack on ethnic Rohingya left thousands dead and 700,000 refugees fleeing to Bangladesh.
Now Burma Campaign UK has published its so-called dirty list and condemned firms for links to the Burmese regime, arguing they should not be dealing with a “military which rapes children and throws babies into fires”.
EDF Group – whose UK subsidiary EDF Energy runs nuclear power stations at Hunterston in North Ayrshire and at Torness in East Lothian – has been named for its involvement in the Shweli 3 dam in Northern Shan State.
The dam is in a conflict zone and opposed by local residents. The project is located in Myinsone Village Tract, Mongmit Township, Northern Shan State.
EDF signed a memorandum of understanding with the Burmese government in 2015, despite fierce fighting in the project area.
Latest developments in Shan State include an attack on 31 August 2019 by the Burmese military who fired mortar bombs into Mohit Village, Kutkai Township, where residents are mainly ethnic Kachin.
Five civilians were killed – including children – and three people were injured. Those killed were named as Seng Hkawn, eight months old, Zau Hkun Lat, eight years old, Lu San, 18 years old, Htoi Ja, 35 years old, and Nang Mun Pan, 14 years old.
Mark Farmaner, director of Burma Campaign UK, said: “When an international company does business with a military-owned company, including promoting their products, they are helping the military to make the money it uses to commit violations of human rights.
“No company should be doing any form of business with Burma’s genocidal military. It is inexplicable why a company would want to work for, or allow on its platform, a military which rapes children and throws babies into fires. Companies which work with and for the military are helping to fund genocide.”
Farmaner added: “As the UN Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar has reported military-owned companies provide the military with revenue which it can use in its operations where human rights violations are committed.
“In publishing this list we hope that in addition to pressuring companies to stop doing business with the military, it will also draw more attention to the need for greater pressure on the military by the international community. The UN has also called for sanctions on Burmese military-owned companies.”
No company should be doing any form of business with Burma’s genocidal military. Mark Farmaner, Burma Campaign UK
The US internet and computing corporations, Google and Apple, were put on the dirty list for hosting apps for Burmese military companies. The Chinese mobile phone maker, Huawei, was listed for working with Mytel, a local mobile phone operator partially owned by the military.
Other critics of these business links included Tun Khin, president of Burmese Rohingya Organisation UK. “The price paid by the Burmese military for genocide against my people has been that a dozen or so soldiers now can’t take holidays in America and Europe,” he said.
“The USA and EU don’t support referring Burma to the International Criminal Court, don’t support a global arms embargo, and don’t support sanctions against the military and their companies. They don’t even give enough aid for the refugees in Bangladesh.”
Regarding the attack in Shan State by the Burmese military on 31 August, the Kachin National Organisation, a Kachin political group in exile from Burma, alleged that indiscriminately targeting civilians was a war crime.
“The Burmese military violating international law targeting civilians is commonplace and has been documented by the UN Fact-Finding Mission, which called for the referral of the situation in Burma to the International Criminal Court,” said the organisation.
“The UN Security Council has failed to act on this recommendation. We believe that the international community, through its actions and inaction, is complicit in the deaths of these villagers.”
It added: “Not one government in the world has supported and implemented the recommendations of the UN Fact-Finding Mission, made almost one year ago. No government has followed the recommendation of the UN Fact-Finding Mission to sanction military companies. Governments which fail to do so are allowing their companies to help fund the military.”
The EDF Group stressed its commitment to rigorously apply the best standards of social and environmental responsibility around the world. “The group has a stringent and demanding policy in this field, based on international conventions and agreements related in particular to the protection of human rights,” said a company spokesperson.
“Currently, the Schwe Li 3 hydropower project is in the development phase, which aims to determine all the key conditions for its possible implementation, and at the end of which the group will decide on its commitment.
“The safety of EDF’s employees, partners and the people living in the vicinity of EDF’s projects is the group’s number one priority. This matter will be scrutinised with our partners and the relevant authorities of the country with the greatest attention.”
Google, Apple and Huawei did not reply to requests for a comment.
Cover image thanks to a local activist in Burma called Mai Mai, via the Kachin National Organisation.