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Asking Wallace Art Collection not to whitewash Totalitarian Oil

Awyame | 21.03.2008 20:35 | Anti-militarism | Repression | Social Struggles | London

Four activists held a demonstration outside the Wallace Collection art gallery at Hertford House, Manchester Square, London on Wednesday 19th March. The Art Gallery is currently considering a sponsorship deal with Total so the activists were asking them not to accept sponsorship from the largest western sponsor of the brutal Burma junta. A boycott is not yet called for as it is hoped the gallery will do the right thing and not become associated by Total with oppression in Burma.

Wallace Collection
Wallace Collection

Wallace Collection
Wallace Collection

French Film Festival
French Film Festival

Banners were displayed at the entrance to the gallery. The demonstration lasted approximately 2 hours. It was started well before public opening time. Staff were leafleted to request their assistance in stopping Total exploiting the gallery's reputation to whitewash Total. Whilst some staff did not appear to be interested others were very keen for the gallery not to accept Total sponsorship.

Some members of the public arrived early and would have been turned away from visiting the gallery, if the activists had not managed to explain that Total sponsorship was still in discussion, so a boycott was not yet being requested by the demonstration.

Towards the end of the demonstration, a senior member of the gallery spoke to a couple of the activists and indicated that it was less likely that the gallery would accept Total sponsorship, though a final decision had not yet been made. He also mentioned having seen our demonstrations at the Total office at the nearby Cavendish Square.

We hope the Wallace Collection will not tarnish their reputation with dirty Totalitarian Oil and not let themselves be used to whitewash Total's dirty image.

Total's pipeline in Burma was built with slave labour and the French Oil company sponsors the brutal military junta with 500 million dollars a year.

Protest at Totalitarian Oil sponsoring French Film Festival

Also on Wednesday 19th March, 6 protesters demonstrated at the French Film Festival at London Cine Lumiere 17 Queensberry Place London. Total was exploiting the French Film Festival and French Arts to try to whitewash their dirty reputation.

The protest was not against the film festival itself or the French films being shown.

It was the last week of the French Film Festival and the 3rd week that there had been a demonstration against Totalitarian Oil sponsoring the French Film Festival.

We were pleased to get support for our protest against Total from the speakers at the event in the previous two weeks: French Director Pierre Salvadori of the film "Priceless" and French director Jean Becker and French actor Jean-Pierre Darroussin of the film "Conversation with my Gardener". We thank them for posing for photographs with our banners and their comments to us in support of the oppressed Burmese. See our blog for the previous two protests:

We hope the French Film Festival will not be exploited by Total next year, as their sponsorship was clearly not wanted by the directors of some of the French films being shown and it would be a great shame for the Festival to become associated with the brutal oppression in Burma.

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].

News from Burma Campaign UK
New indie band Lo-star "Wake Up" debut single launched 17th March 2008 in support of Burma Campaign UK. See video:

Protests in London Next Week

Wednesday 26th March

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:

Kilburn Total station, 409 Kilburn High Rd, Kilburn, NW6 7QG
5:00pm - 7:00pm (Wednesday)
Tube: Kilburn | Map:

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:

- "Free Burma's Political Prisoners Now!" petition (global campaign launched 13 March 2008)
- The Burma Campaign UK e-action to TOTAL:
- The "No fuel for Burmese Junta" 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

Lo-star "Wake Up" single launched 17th March 2008 in support of Burma Campaign UK. See video:

Get TOTAL OIL out of Burma group on Facebook:

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

Splits emerge in Burma’s army over country’s roadmap – Larry Jagan

There is a growing rift within Burma’s military government over the country’s political future and road-map to democracy. A battle is now beginning to emerge between those who are currently in control of most of Burma’s assets and those who see themselves as the country’s true guardians. Several key members of the ruling junta are secretly being investigated for corruption.

The junta is no longer cohesive and united, as two major camps have clearly emerged. On one side there are the ministers and members of the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) who have major business interests and are associated with Than Shwe’s brainchild, the mass community-based Union Solidarity and Development Association (USDA).

On the other side are the top ranking generals, led by second in command Maung Aye, who want a professional army and see its main role as protector of the people. They have become increasingly dismayed at corruption within the government and understand that it is undermining the army’s future role in the country.

As the war between these two groups escalates, Senior General Than Shwe’s rapidly deteriorating health has effectively left the country without a real leader. The result is total inertia in government administration and a growing fear that one of the contesting factions may launch a “soft coup” in the near future, according to Burmese military sources.

But the “real” Army, as these officers view themselves, is going to have to act quickly if it is to remain a force to be reckoned with. The planned referendum for May and the election in two years time will radically change the country’s political landscape. The USDA, which is organising both the referendum and the elections, will significantly increase its power and control over the country’s new emerging political process.

Senior members of the army are increasingly resentful of the growing dominance of the USDA and the likely curtailment of the army’s authority after the referendum in May. “It will bring an abrupt end to the army’s absolute power,” said a Burmese government official.

At the center of this emerging battle for supremacy is the growing division within the Army between those who graduated from the Officers Training School (OTS) like Than Shwe, and those who went to the Defence Services Academy (DSA) like Maung Aye.

Many Cabinet ministers associated with the USDA are from the OTS, as are several hardliners within the ruling SPDC, though some no longer have operational commands. These leaders are known to have the ear of Than Shwe and have convinced him to take an uncompromising stand against detained opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi and her party, the National League for Democracy (NLD).

These key ministers, including Industry Minister Aung Thaung, Fisheries Minister Maung Maung Thein (who is also head of the powerful Myanmar Investment Commission), Construction Minister Saw Htun and Agriculture Minister Htay Oo (who is also a key leader of the USDA), are notorious hardliners and amongst the most corrupt members of the government.

They have all amassed huge personal fortunes from smuggling and kickbacks. “These fellows are out of control and racking up the money from bribery and fraud – not even Maung Aye, who despises excessive corruption, can touch them,” a Burmese military source told Mizzima on condition of anonymity.

They have been in government now for over eight years and are entrenched in their lifestyles and practises. Everyone seems powerless to stop them at present, according to Burmese government sources. “They are known as ‘the Nazis’ within the top ranks of the army,” according to a Burmese businessman with close links to the military hierarchy. “They have the money and they have their own militia,” he added.

Many in the army now fear that this group – with some senior officers in the SPDC, current or former heads of the Bureau of Special Operations (BSO) – are planning a grab for power using the USDA as a front. “They are the real enemies of the people,” said the Burmese businessman.

But there are now growing numbers within the army that are viewing these developments with increasing concern. There is mounting resentment and frustration amongst the junior officers in the Ministry of Defence in the new capital of Naypyitaw (Nay Pyi Taw).

Many of the junior officers are divisional commanders, aged between 47 and 55. These are the army’s “young Turks,” who are alarmed at the way in which the USDA is growing in influence at the expense of the army.

“They are watching their unscrupulous colleagues, hiding behind the uniform, building up massive fortunes from corruption in government and they are worried that this tarnishes the image of the army,” said a source in Naypyitaw.

“It’s time to get rid of the OTS bastards,” an officer recently told a visiting businessman. But so far there are no signs of a palace coup. Many officers may feel aggrieved, but there is no open discussion as yet about doing anything in practise. “The climate of fear that pervades the whole country is also prevalent in the military,” a Thai military intelligence officer told Mizzima.

“There is no doubt that many in the army are extremely unhappy with they way things are going, and are concerned about what will happen to them after the referendum and the elections,” he said. “But they are army officers, and will continue to obey their orders unquestioningly,” he said.

Yet there are now signs that the top few generals under Than Shwe may be beginning to form an informal alliance against the USDA leadership – and possibly Than Shwe himself. These are the deputy chief of the military, Maung Aye, Chief of Staff Thura Shwe Mann, Prime Minister Thein Sein and Secretary One of the SPDC, Tin Aung Myint Oo.

So far there is little to suggest that they are planning a purge of their opponents in the same way that former Prime Minister Khin Nyunt and his intelligence apparatus were crushed four years ago. “Nothing can be ruled out at this stage as resentment and anger is growing amongst the junior officers and rank-and-file soldiers,” said Win Min, an independent analyst based at Chiang Mai University.

But a pre-emptive strike against some of the key people in the USDA is definitely underway. Fisheries Minister Maung Maung Thein and the BSOs, Maung Bo and Ye Myint, are being secretly investigated by the Bureau of Special Investigations over bribery, kickbacks and illegal smuggling, a source inside the regime told Mizzima.

Maung Maung Thein and Maung Bo are under intense scrutiny for allegations of smuggling. At least 90 percent of the fish caught in Burmese waters are smuggled out through Thailand, especially Ranong, according to informed industry sources. Burma is estimated to be losing more than $500 million as a result.

Several other ministers and members of the SPDC and their families are also under investigation, according to government sources. Maung Maung Thein’s infamous son, Ko Pauk (Myint Thein) had his timber business dissolved a few weeks ago for malpractice. Maung Bo’s son’s business, the Hurricane Bar, is also under investigation concerning drugs.

There are many other businesses and businessmen affiliated with USDA members being investigated, including the Managing Director of Asia Light, Soe Myint.

This has not happened in the past and indicates the concern the top military commanders have about corruption and what it is doing to the army’s reputation. “It’s an effort to distinguish between the government or USDA and the army,” a senior military man told Mizzima.

Most of this is still behind closed doors. There is still no open confrontation between the two camps. In part that is because the SPDC quarterly meeting has been continuously postponed by Than Shwe for fear that it may open up a war between himself and his top subordinates.

One of the main reasons the ruling council has not met for more than nine months is that Than Shwe is trying to avoid the meeting as he knows Maung Aye will demand the resignations of at least four of the BSOs – including Maung Bo and Ye Myint. The last meeting reportedly ended when Maung Aye refused to accept Than Shwe’s recommendation that Maung Bo be promoted to a full general, according to Burmese military sources.

At least two of them have since been removed from their commands – Khin Maung Than and Maung Bo being replaced by Khin Saw and Tha Aye (both graduates of the DSA) and Myint Hlaing is soon expected to replace Tin Aye. However, although they no longer have operational command for their regions they remain on the SPDC, imposed by Than Shwe.

If these three BSA commanders and DSA officers also replaced their predecessors on the SPDC it would radically change the composition of the council. Four years ago, with the support of his OTS men, Than Shwe’s authority was unchallenged – but with these new promotions Maung Aye and Thura Shwe Mann would effectively control the SPDC.

As a result of the constant postponement of the SPDC quarterly meeting all promotions within the army have ground to a halt. “The top generals have not met [for the quarterly meeting] for months, since before the August and September protests. So during that time, apart from the appointment of three regional commanders, there have been no promotions,” said Win Min.

“The impact of this will certainly add to the growing frustration amongst some of the commanders who should have already been promoted,” he said.

Time is now running out for the top generals under Than Shwe if they are to take control.

They know that after the referendum in May their position will become increasingly less significant, as Ministers and selected military generals move into the USDA and take up civilian roles in the future. At the same time they fear that widespread corruption will also destroy the country and its political stability.

“The real Army is the only institution that can bring genuine democracy to the country in the future,” a military man told Mizzima. “The new generation of officers represent the real hope for the country.” They would be open to a political dialogue with Aung San Suu Kyi, he insisted, as they see themselves as the real guardians of the country.

In the meantime, Than Shwe’s health is rapidly deteriorating and he is fast losing his memory. He is increasingly withdrawn and reclusive. His position is now becoming progressively more perilous, despite his carefully planned schemes, according to many specialists on Burma’s military.

“It is not worth risking a crisis when nature may solve it for us legally and peacefully,” Maung Aye recently told some of his close confidantes. But with the referendum only weeks away the army may yet have to move against the corrupt USDA lobby before it’s too late.
Samak's thugs maul Hmong refugees

On February 27, 2008, Thai Third Army attack dogs were reportedly ordered by Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej to maul a group of Hmong refugees prior to their forced repatriation back to the communist regime in Laos that they fled according to the Washington, DC-based Center for Public Policy Analysis and Lao Hmong human rights organizations.

“Reliable and multiple eyewitness sources in Thailand have reported that Thai military officials, at the apparent direct order of Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej, in preparation for his upcoming trip to Laos, used teams of military attack dogs led by armed soldiers to intimidate and maul some 12-13 Lao-Hmong refugees at Ban Huay Nam Khao detention center as brutal preparation before forcing them back to the Communist regime,” stated Philip Smith, Executive Director, of the Center for Public Policy Analysis, in Washington, D.C.

“Clearly, these Lao Hmong refugees and asylum seekers did not ‘volunteer’ to go back to Laos as the Thai government and military have falsely stated and we condemn this brutal action as a clear violation of human rights and international law,” continued Smith.

Two or three of the Hmong refugees were reportedly too critically bloodied and injured by the dog attacks to be returned to Laos at this time.

“We are appealing to Prime Minister Samak to call of the attack dogs before his upcoming trip to Laos and stop misguided elements of the Thai Third Army from using these dogs to attack innocent Lao-Hmong refugees and asylum seekers that the United Nations and international community wish to resettle in third countries,” continued Smith.
Funding Shortfall Reduces Food Rations in Refugee Camps

Rising commodity prices, the strengthening of the Thai baht and budget shortfalls are raising concerns for the welfare of Burmese refugees along the Thai-Burmese border.

The Thailand Burma Border Consortium (TBBC) has not been able to raise sufficient funds to sustain its refugee assistance program and has been forced to cut food rations and other aid, according to Jack Dunford, the TBBC executive director based in Bangkok.

According to the Karen Refugee Committee (KRC) in Masaring, TBBC’s funding shortfall has led to cuts in food rations like sugar, chili, fish paste and bean cake. Non-food items like building supplies, soap and mosquito nets have been drastically reduced.

The group is seeking more funds, he said, but the budget shortfall represents a serious challenge.

The TBBC currently gives food and other assistance to about 130,000 refugees in seven camps along the border. About 14,636 refugees departed for resettlement in 2007 and about 17,000 are expected to leave in 2008.
Burmese Balk at Immutable Constitution

As Burma prepares for a referendum on the ruling junta’s draft constitution, many Burmese are expressing growing uneasiness over the prospect of a dead-end charter that appears to be carved in stone. Although the regime has yet to disclose the full contents of the constitution, many have already decided to reject it on the grounds that it will be virtually impossible to change once it comes into force.

Under Section 12 of the draft charter, any amendment would require the support of more than three-quarters of members of parliament. However, with 25 percent of seats going to military appointees, the chance of changes being introduced against the wishes of Burma’s powerful generals is effectively nil.

Two weeks ago, when United Nations Special Envoy Ibrahim Gambari was in the country to press for a more inclusive political process, he was told by the head of the junta’s Spokes Authoritative Team, Information Minister Brig-Gen Kyaw Hsan, that the constitution would not remain unchanged forever.

When the junta announced in early February that it would hold a referendum on the constitution in May, some cautiously welcomed the move as opening a door to future democratic changes. Now, however, many say that there is little room left for such optimism.

“Some people thought that the constitution could be modified in the future. But now that I’ve looked at some of the basic principles of the constitution, I can see that this thinking is totally wrong,” said a businessman in Rangoon, speaking on condition of anonymity.

“If we cannot change the constitution, how can we accept it?”

Despite growing doubts about the constitution, however, he also ruled out any likelihood that the outcome of the referendum would reflect the will of the people.

“Under military rule, we cannot openly say what we really want because we are afraid. So a genuine referendum and election is impossible in this country.”
Referendum: 'No' Vote Gaining Momentum

A vote “No” movement is gaining momentum throughout Burma as the May referendum date—still yet to be announced—draws near.

Various activists and citizens in Rangoon, Mandalay and Kachin and Arakan states are urging the public to take a stand against the military-crafted draft constitution, which has still not been made public.

A resident in Mandalay, the second largest city, predicted that almost all Mandalay citizens would vote “No” in the referendum.

“It’s not because they don’t understand the constitution,” he said, “but because they dislike the military regime.”

Even government staffers are saying they will vote ‘No,’” he said.

In Myitkyina, many residents told The Irrawaddy that they would vote “No,” while others said they would boycott the referendum.

Ma Brang said, “I will vote ‘No.’ Many people—almost all—in Myitkyina think like me.”

Another Myitkyina resident said, “I will not vote in the referendum. If authorities try to talk to me, I’m ready to complain to them.”

He said the constitution process was a “fake” and it failed to guarantee the rights of ethnic groups in Burma. The constitution will only guarantee that the junta is able to hold on to power, he said.

Local authorities in Rangoon and other regions, especially in ethnic states, have also offered temporary citizen identification cards to adults while urging them to vote “Yes,” sources said.

Some residents who have openly spoken out against the referendum have been threatened by authorities, sources told The Irrawaddy.

The regime recently enacted a new law that calls for up to three years imprisonment and a 100,000 kyat (US $91) fine for anyone convicted of making anti-government statements or distributing posters opposing the referendum. The law also bans monks and nuns from voting.

Despite the restrictions, a Burmese migrant worker in Singapore, who asked for anonymity, said, “I will vote in the referendum because if I don’t vote, I will lose my vote. But I will vote “No.”

Mizzima News: Monks in exile urge people to boycott and rise against junta – Nay Thwin
Fri 21 Mar 2008
Filed under: News, Inside Burma

In a major development, for the first time since the September 2007 protests, a monk’s organization has exhorted people both inside and outside Burma to rise against and boycott the Burmese military junta and its seven-point road map including the referendum. The call is being dubbed “a battle cry by the monks”.
Junta authorities coax, threaten civilians to support charter

In an attempt to get public approval of the draft constitution, authorities of State and Peace Development Council (SPDC) are pushing for and threatening civilians to vote ‘Yes’ during the constitutional referendum in coming May, according to the sources from Eastern Shan State.

Since 9 March, local government officials in Tachilek, eastern Shan State, have gone from one house to another and asked the people of their opinion on the draft constitution, said a resident of Tachilek.

"They [authorities] also threaten the people by saying, "If you boycott or say no to this new constitution leading to its defeat, you will lose all the rights stated in it. Moreover the problems and the difficulties currently faced by the people will not be solved," ” he added.

From early this month, in Pongpakhem, the sub-township of Mong Ton, eastern Shan State, high school teachers and officers from several governmental departments are ordered to urge villagers to vote ‘yes’ during constitutional referendum, said a source from Thai-Burma border.

"Teachers and officers are forbidden from taking their summer holidays and ordered to win over villagers [during referendum in May]. Now they are travelling from one village to another and persuading the villagers to give support [to the draft constitution]".

"I have never voted and never known anything about a referendum and voting system. They [teachers and officers] just told us to go and vote for it, but they told us nothing about how to vote or didn’t explain anything about the constitution," said a 28-year-old resident of Pongpakhem. I
Junta campaigns to get "yes" vote in northern Arakan

The Burmese military junta is systematically preparing for the referendum in May, threatening civil servants into supporting the draft constitution, according to villagers in northern Arakan.

A town dweller in Maungdaw Township, yesterday said that township level authorities had instructed government servants to vote "yes" at the national referendum.

A schoolteacher in Maungdaw Township said that citizens must have the right to see the draft of the constitution before the referendum, but he complained that he cannot find a copy of the draft constitution anywhere.

It is also learnt that in Maungdaw Township, the authorities will recruit about 1,000 Red Cross members soon to support the next constitutional referendum.

Residents of Maungdaw and Buthidaung Townships are sad that they will be compelled to vote "yes". Villagers believe that the concerned authorities will create a situation to get the "yes" vote in the ensuing constitutional referendum by any means. They have learnt lessons from the election held in 1990.

"We came to know that there will be no international agencies to monitor the referendum. If the agencies are absent in Burma for the referendum, the SPDC's pawn commission will try to get the "yes" vote by any means, “said a politician from Maungdaw town referring not to be named.

Burma's present ruling junta recently rejected the United Nations special envoy Ibrahim Gambari's proposal to have international monitoring at the national referendum in May.
Fined for renovation of mosque in Maungadw

Maungdaw, Arakan State: The Township Peace and Development Council (TPDC) Chairman Myint Maung of Maungdaw Township has slapped a fine of kyat 200,000 for renovation of a veranda of a mosque on February 8, said a mosque committee member.

The mosque is situated in Myoma Ka Nyin Tan ( Shikda Para) in Maungdaw Town and is known as Sayed Ali mosque. The veranda of the mosque is about 7 yards in length and is 2.5-yards in width. It was damaged last year. The villagers have been trying to get permission for renovating it. But, they failed to get permission.

So, last February, local villagers renovated it without permission from the concerned authorities. The villagers only roofed it with tin sheets whereas earlier it was roofed with Nipa leaves.

Because of the renovation, Abdul Amin (36), son of Sultan Ahmed was arrested by the TPDC Chairman on February 8. Sultan is one of the mosque committee members. However, later he was released after paying kyat 200,000 to the TPDC Chairman, said a local elder.

No renovation is allowed of mosques, religious schools and houses, even a cow shed of the Rohingya community excluding other communities without permission from the authorities.
Burmese military scorches border island

Mar 19, 2008 (DVB)–Burmese military troops set fire to an island in the Thaung Yin river between Burma and Thailand yesterday, clearing huts built by illegal settlers, locals said.

The mid-river island is located between the Burmese town of Myawaddy in Karen state and Thailand's Mae Sot district.

"The Burmese military personnel and the police went on to the island at around 7am and cleared it by burning down the huts," said the Myawaddy resident.

"They did not give any advance warning of the clearing to the settlers on the island."
Burmese Monks Condemn Crackdown on Tibetan Monks

Irrawaddy - Saw Yan Naing : Burmese Buddhist monks have strongly condemned the Chinese government for their brutal crackdown on Tibet’s monk-led protests in Lhasa, capital of Tibet, which led to at least 12 deaths and many more injuries.

Speaking with The Irrawaddy on Monday, a leader of the All Burma Monks Alliance, U Pyinya Zawta, said, “We strongly condemn the Chinese government for their crackdown on Tibet’s monks. We appeal to the Chinese government to stop their suppression of monks and initiate peaceful negotiations.”

The All Burma Monks Alliance is an underground monk’s organization inside Burma founded by Buddhist monks in September at the time protests broke out nationwide.


[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: