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Burma: Fifty Companies Added to Union's Burma Hit List

by Abigail TownsendIndependent (London)
January 11th, 2004

A top trade union organisation has added almost 50 companies to a hit list of businesses still operating under Burma's military dictatorship, including the American industrial giant Ingersoll-Rand.

The International Confederation of Free Trade Unions, which represents 158 million workers in 231 affiliated organisations, said 48 companies have been added, including Ingersoll-Rand, which has a market value of almost $12bn (6.5bn). The number of businesses on the list is 375.

Burma has one of the worst human rights records in the world, and various governments, including those of the United States and UK, have called on Western companies to quit the country. Sanctions have been imposed.

Ingersoll-Rand operates in Burma through a wholly-owned subsidiary in Singapore, providing services ranging from manufacturing to sales and marketing, for distributors across South-East Asia.

A spokesman for the parent company in the US said Ingersoll-Rand obeyed sanctions and operated in Burma only through distributors. He was unable to discuss the company's position on the country further but added: "Our policy has always been that we're in favour of engagement, not disengagement, to effect social change.

"When we first went back to China in the mid-1980s, any company that proceeded in that direction was subject to attention, but if you want to enact social change it's better to be there and engage."

Many businesses have been called on to quit Burma. One of the last UK companies to pull out was British American Tobacco, which quit last November after mounting governmental pressure.

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