Naing Htoo arrived in Houston, TX last night after a 2-day journey from his home in Thailand. In a press conference outside Chevron's Houston offices today, he spoke powerfully about Chevron's human rights violations in his homeland of Burma.
Since the early 1990s, Chevron (formerly Unocal), has partnered with the state-owned Myanmar Oil and Gas Enterprise (MOGE) on the Yadana natural gas project. The Yadana project is one of the world's most controversial resource development projects and is widely recognized as a textbook example of corporate complicity in human rights abuses.
What is the history of Chevron in Burma?
In the 1990s Chevron bought Unocal and took over its operations on a highly controversial natural gas project, the Yadana Project. First, the soldiers moved into the area. Then, they built military camps and forced relocation of the villagers. Then, forced labor. Killing, torture, and rape have become a way of life. All this to protect Chevron's project.
What was the area around the pipeline like before Chevron and its partners came?
It was very peaceful. There was almost no military presence. But, then there were at least 1,000 military in one area who came to clean out the project corridor. The military forced villagers to work for them. In the name of security, they forced people to carry things across the jungle. Many people have disappeared and are left to die in the jungle. All in the name of project security.
You work directly with villagers in the area. Are there any stories you can share?
Forced labor is a part of everyday life. Chevron says no slave labor happens, but that is a lie. Also, just this year, the project security killed two people.
Chevron shareholders are voting on a resolution about revenue transparency at tomorrow's annual meeting. Why is this an issue in Burma?
Chevron and the other project companies have contracts with Burma. Burma spends 60% of its budget on its military and 40% of the country's money comes from gas. So, Chevron and its partners are helping to fund a military regime, but they refuse to disclose how much they are paying. When we asked Chevron to disclose revenue transparency they refused. People in Burma deserve to know who is funding the military regime.
Chevron is touting a new human rights policy. What do you think of it?
It is only pages. A human rights policy must not only be on paper, but must also be on the ground. And, we just don't see that for the people of Burma. We want a human rights policy that will actually benefit the people of Burma.
Naing Htoo is one of nearly 40 people from around the globe who are in Houston for Chevron's annual shareholder meeting this week. This is the third in a series of 'City Brights' interviews I will conduct with these global community leaders. Tune in tomorrow for more of their stories.