6 Nov 2008

Burma: join the call on Lloyd's of London

A year after their crackdown, Burma's military dictators remain entrenched, propped up by dealings with Western companies. Now the Burmese democracy movement has found a powerful pressure point - many of the Generals' West-linked business ventures depend on one insurer: Lloyd’s of London.

Photo: One I took last year of campaigners for democracy in Burma

Regular blog readers will know that I have covered Burma many times on this blog and campaigned on this issue for years following my visit there in 1985 before the boycott of visiting the country was called. Avaaz has now launched a campaign to bring about change. Here is what they wrote:

Lloyd’s is the world's oldest, most respected insurer, and cares a great deal about its global reputation - by pointing out Lloyd’s blameworthiness as key insurance deals come up for renewal, we can shift their cost-benefit calculations on support to the Burmese regime.

If enough of us email and call key decision-makers at Lloyd’s this week, we could shame them into pulling out of this dirty trade, undermining the hardliners and creating pressure for human rights and the release of political prisoners like democratically elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi. Follow the link below to lend a hand to the Burmese people:

The Burmese people's struggle is long and tough. But as in South Africa, international pressure on the regime's exploitative ventures could tip the balance. Because it's hard or impossible for them to continue without insurance, this is an effective and wide-reaching approach for citizens everywhere to have a real impact. Burma’s democracy movement decided on this strategy because the benefit of these ventures flows overwhelmingly to the generals, while the Burmese people have grown ever poorer.

Lloyd's of London is the umbrella and overseer for hundreds of specialist insurance syndicates, and it can stop their dirty trade if it so chooses. Already many big global insurers have stopped insuring junta-linked businesses – after Lloyd’s, the generals will start to run out of options. We'll ramp up the pressure by alerting the media to our campaign, specialist insurance publications included. Even the British government has begun to ask Lloyd's to cease its business with the Burmese military junta.

We can win this campaign, so let's flood Lloyd's with emails and phone calls all this week - on the campaign page we provide key numbers, email addresses and suggestions for what to say - just follow the link below now to take action:

If we win, the regime will be thrown onto the back foot, Burma's people will be immensely heartened, and the UN Secretary-General will have a greater chance of securing the release of Aung San Suu Kyi and other prisoners this December. Together, our individual small acts are becoming irresistible. We can't forget Burma.

I sent off my emails earlier this week and would urge others to play their part - even by the end of last week they were receiving one email a minute demanding change! Meanwhile we see successes as more responsible companies pull out of Burma - the latest being Cotton Traders - a Burma Campaign UK investigation revealed that Cotton Traders were sourcing clothes from Burma within 2 days of launching a boycott they pulled out. We can make a difference.

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