Multinational Monitor

October 1992

BURMA Big Oil Fuels Oppression

Table of Contents

Behind the Lines


Save the Rockies

The Front

Nursing Home Abuses


Oil in Burma: Fueling Oppression

By Dara O'Rourke

Moi Resistance :

Standing Up to Indonesia

By Anna Laine

The Scorched Earth :

China’s Assault on Tibet’s Environment

By Justin Lowe


Battling the World Bank

An Interview with Nilufar Ahmad


The NAFTA Nightmare

By Bill Day


Trading Labor Rights in Malaysia

By the Asia Monitor Resource Center

Corporate Profile

Weyerhaeuser: The Tree Whackers

By George Draffen

Names in the News

Book Note

The Labor Press



To the editor:

In reviewing your June, 1992 issue of Multinational Monitor, I came across the article entitled, "The Grass Isn’t Greener On the Other Side" by David Minkow and Colleen Murphy-Dunning.

We assume your concern for Irian Jaya’s environmental and social well being is genuine, just as is ours. We believe that fair-minded people, when presented with all the facts, will conclude that Freeport-McMoran Copper and Gold is a responsible corporate citizen who is handling its mining operations and its accompanying environmental and social obligations in a proper manner. Not only do we believe our record demonstrates this, but numerous media, environmental and other independent organizations who have visited our site in the last year have seen our work firsthand.

Freeport will continue its dialogue with responsible and reasonable non-governmental organizations in making clear our ongoing commitment to the people of Irian Jaya.


George Mealy

President, Freeport-McMoran

Copper and Gold, Inc.

Editor’s note: George Mealy enclosed with his letter an eight-page detailed response to the charges Minkow and Murphy-Dunning made in the article and which Rainforest Action Network also made in a May 1992 Action Alert. For copies of the above materials, please contact:


1615 Poydras Street

New Orleans, LA 70112

Behind the Lines

Poisoning Honduras

THE U.S.-BASED MULTINATIONAL Standard Fruit ’s use of pesticides which are banned in the United States has endangered Honduran workers’ health on plantations in Honduras ’ northern coastal zone, according to Dallas attorney Charles Siegel. Siegel is representing the Standard Fruit workers in a lawsuit to be filed in the United States this year. Standard Fruit, a subsidiary of Dole Food Company , owns extensive plantations in the coastal provinces of Atlantida and Colon and exports more than 15 million boxes of bananas annually.

The workers decided to take legal action following the June 1992 death of a worker from a cancer believed to have been caused by exposure to the pesticide DBCP, which was fully banned in the United States in 1985.

Standard Fruit offered out-of-court settlements of $4,000 per worker in an attempt to avoid judicial proceedings. The workers rejected the offer. Siegel, who won settlements for Costa Rican Standard Fruit workers in a similar case earlier this year, is seeking at least $30,000 indemnification for each worker exposed to the chemicals.

Siegel says that he hopes the legal action will "discourage the corporate attitude that it is OK to sell something abroad that you wouldn’t let your own children go anywhere near, and encourage [foreign] workers to vindicate their rights in the United States when they are injured by U.S. companies."

Dumping on Malaysia

A DRAMATIC JULY COURT DECISION ordering a polluting multinational corporation to close its operations in Malaysia is now threatened by pro-company rulings from the country’s supreme court. A Malaysian High Court found that a joint venture of the Japanese Mitsubishi Kasei Corporation , Asian Rare Earth (ARE), was releasing radioactive waste which was endangering the surrounding community of Ipoh, and ordered the facility to shut down immediately. The court ruling also ordered ARE to remove within 14 days all radioactive wastes and other toxic chemicals from its factory in Bukit Merah to a permanent dump site away from area villages. Residents claim that ARE has been dumping chemical wastes into a nearby pond and river. ARE has appealed the ruling to the Malaysian Supreme Court.

On August 3, riot police were called to stop about 2,000 people, who had gathered at the Supreme Court in Kuala Lumpur to protest ARE’s waste disposal methods, from entering the appellate hearing. In response to the demonstrators’ presence, Supreme Court Judge Yusoff Mohamed postponed the case, leaving the appeal date undecided. To the frustration of the plaintiffs and village residents, the judge suspended the ban on ARE plant operations pending the appeal and overruled the high court’s order requiring ARE to clean up its radioactive wastes at Bukit Merah.

The case against ARE was brought by eight Bukit Merah residents who claim that the health of villagers has been severely affected by exposure to the radioactive wastes. Judge Peh Swee Chin said that he found sufficient evidence of increased leukemia, congenital disease, infant deaths and higher levels of lead in village children since the plant’s opening in 1982 to justify closing the factory. Mitsubishi Kasei refused to comment on the charges to Multinational Monitor.

Toxic Loopholes

THE ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY (EPA) has reported reductions in U.S. industrial toxic chemical releases which are overstated by more than 50 percent, according to a study released in August by the Washington, D.C.-based public interest group Citizen Action. The report’s authors, Ed Hopkins and Tom Pollack, surveyed 50 manufacturing facilities across the United States to find that the largest decreases in chemical emissions are attributable not to pollution reduction efforts but to changes the EPA has made in its requirements for the reporting of certain chemicals, as well as to decreases in industrial production due to the economic recession.

Pollack, Citizen Action’s research director, charges that while the EPA announced a decrease in toxic wastes from 5.8 billion pounds in 1989 to 4.8 billion pounds in 1990, about half of the reduction can be attributed to delisting formerly reported toxins.

For example, Monsanto ’s Alvin, Texas plant released 200 million pounds of ammonium sulfate in 1989. Because the plant was not obligated to report the chemical in 1990, its "reductions" in toxic releases were advanced by 70 percent, Hopkins and Pollack claim.

Citizen Action Public Affairs Director Ed Rothschild, who assisted with the study, says that the EPA has responded to the arguments made in the report. He says EPA’s 1992 toxic release inventory, through which companies’ toxic releases are made public, states that if companies had been required to report ammonium sulfate emissions, industry reductions for 1990 would amount to 11 percent, not the 18 percent previously reported.

According to Rothschild, the chemicals were delisted in response to corporate pressure. "When companies take credit for environmental improvements, we want there to be real changes in source reduction, alterations in processes and investments in the way products are manufactured to reduce the chemicals that end up in the waste stream," says Rothschild.n

- Julie Gozan

Editorial: Save the Rockies

NINETY-FIVE PERCENT OF THE ORIGINAL FORESTS in the continental United States have been destroyed since the eighteenth century. The Northern Rockies now make up the last contiguous ecosystem in the lower 48 United States. Timber companies are currently pushing a bill through Congress to open up vast areas of public forest in Montana to logging and mining companies, destroying forever a vital part of this ecosystem.

The purpose of the Montana National Forest Management Act, sponsored by Senators Max Baucus, D-Montana, and Conrad Burns, R-Montana, is to designate certain National Forest Service lands as wilderness areas and release others for "multiple use management." The bill, in fact, places only a minor portion of these lands in the federally protected wilderness system, and releases millions of acres of pristine Montana forests to industrial plunder.

The bill proposes opening nearly five million acres of Montana’s National Forest lands to extensive logging, road building, mining and oil drilling, and makes over 98 percent of the Forest Service timber base in Montana eligible for clear-cutting. The Baucus-Burns bill designates less than 20 percent of Montana’s remaining undeveloped Forest Service lands for inclusion in the wilderness system, setting aside 1.19 million acres of high-elevation "ice and rock" areas, which are much lower in biodiversity than old growth areas. The bill fails to designate vast regions of de facto wilderness, including entire mountain ranges, for inclusion in the wilderness system. Under the bill, endangered species such as the grizzly bear, gray wolf, woodland caribou and bull trout would suffer irreparable losses of habitat which are already threatened by extensive road building and logging.

The Baucus-Burns bill passed the Senate in March. The opposition of outraged environmentalists, residents and business people in Montana and nationwide to the legislation led Representative Bruce Vento, D-Minnesota, to propose an amendment to the bill. Vento claims his amendment addresses the problems of the original bill, but in fact the substitute bill barely provides any more protection than the original legislation. The Vento substitute only increases total widerness designations from 1.19 million acres to 1.48 million acres. It would still open nearly four million roadless acres to extensive logging, roadbuilding, mining and other development. And like the original bill, Vento’s substitute would isolate pockets of Montana wilderness from the rest of the Northern Rockies, failing to address the vital issue of ecosystem preservation.

Congress should reject these destructive proposals and support another alternative bill. Representative Peter Kostmayer, D-Pennsylvania, has recently introduced legislation - produced in conjunction with the Alliance for the Wild Rockies (AWR), a coalition of Western activists, residents and business people - to preserve permanently virtually all remaining roadless lands in the National Forests of the Rocky Mountains. The Northern Rockies Ecosytem Protection Act, the first bill in Congress to deal with forest management with a multi-state, ecosystem-wide approach, would place more than 14 million acres of U.S. Forest Service Lands in the federally protected wilderness system, create more than 1,300 miles of federal wild and scenic rivers and designate a new national park.

National environmental organizations, with the exception of Greenpeace, have not rallied around the Kostmayer bill. The Vento bill has gained the support of the national Sierra Club. The Sierra Club’s Washington, D.C.-based legislative office says, the bill, while still inadequate, represents an improvement over the original legislation and is an important first step in preserving large tracts of Montana wilderness. And while the Sierra Club supports the concept of an ecosystem-wide approach, it lobbied Kostmayer against sponsoring the Northern Rockies bill last year, claiming that the AWR had failed to secure grassroots support for the bill. But in fact, the bill was endorsed by the nearly 200 grassroots groups ranging from fishing and hunting clubs to local Audubon chapters to homeowners organizations to business groups to a host of wildlife protection groups that make up the AWR.

In supporting the Vento bill, the Sierra Club is mistakenly seeking compromise with industry as a means of environmental reform. An organization dedicated to environmental preservation cannot legitimately lobby against innovative and far-sighted legislation that would forever conserve lands that belong to the U.S. public, even in the hope of preserving a small fraction of the area. The "better than nothing" approach will not save the Northern Rockies ecosystem.

U.S. taxpayers own these lands and have a right to control their stewardship. They should not allow the government, with the complicity of compromising environmentalists, to give them away to timber companies. Citizens must demand that the Interior Committe and the rest of Congress reject the Baucus-Burns bill and the Vento substitute, in favor of the long-term approach offered by Kostmayer and the AWR. Five million acres of pristine forests are at stake.n

The Front

Nursing Home Abuses

AN INVESTIGATION INTO the deaths of two Pennsylvania nursing home residents has led to charges of involuntary manslaughter against four officials at two West Philadelphia nursing homes.

"We allege that each of the victims died from massive and infected bed sores that resulted from criminally negligent and grossly incompetent care," says Pennsylvania Attorney General Ernie Preate. "The victims were in these nursing homes because they required skilled care," he explains. "Instead, they allegedly were neglected, mistreated and forced to suffer greatly prior to their deaths."

Margaret White lived at Care Pavilion nursing home in Philadelphia, from June 1988 until her death on November 29, 1991 at the age of 75. Elizabeth Ellis was admitted to Cobbs Creek nursing home in Philadelphia in August 1986 and died at a Philadelphia hospital on September 1, 1990 at the age of 69.

According to Preate, his office, which routinely investigates Medicaid fraud charges, launched the investigations as a result of complaints he had received about the level of care provided to Medical Assistance recipients at Care Pavilion. Preate says the investigation is continuing, with as many as five additional deaths to be examined.

According to the attorney general, state law holds nursing home administrators responsible for enforcing state regulations pertaining to the health care and safety of patients and for the protection of patients’ personal and property rights. The law also makes the director of nursing responsible for the activities of the nursing services staff. The charges allege that while the nursing home employees in question were aware of White’s and Ellis’ conditions, they failed to act to ensure that the women received adequate care at their respective facilities.

The attorney general says his office also filed criminal charges, including counts of involuntary manslaughter, against GMS Management of Philadelphia, alleging that the corporation failed to discharge its duty under the law to provide adequate care for patients. GMS is a subsidiary of Geriatric and Medical Centers, Inc. , which operates the nursing homes under a contract with Resource Housing of America in Atlanta, the owner of the homes, according to state officials.

"The grand jury found that GMS Management’s alleged failure to correct continuing deficiencies in management and staffing of the homes contributed to the deaths and constituted criminal behavior," Preate says. In a statement, GMS counters that it "strongly denies these allegations and is confident it will prevail when all of the facts are presented."

The attorney general’s charges against GMS Management include a count of Medicare fraud, based on the nursing homes’ alleged failure to provide White and Ellis minimal accepted levels of care required by state law. According to Preate, because both White and Ellis were Medical Assistance recipients, the homes billed the state Medicaid program for the care the women received.

The complaints note that the grand jury reviewed reports about White and Ellis from health care experts, including Dolores M. Alford, a gerontic nurse consultant. Alford’s report states that her review of White’s records "tells the story of a frail woman who went to Care Pavillon because she was in need of care and compassion. That she did not get. She was sorely abused physically and mentally by a most incompetent and uncaring staff, who willfully and wantonly destroyed her body. Mrs. White had to die to get some relief."

Alford’s report on Ellis states that the staff at Cobbs Creek "willfully and callously disregarded the basic needs of a human being for food, water and personal care." Alford concludes that the staff at Cobbs Creek "made her [Ellis] into a living cadaver. This staff did not afford her the dignity of a humane life."

At a news conference, Preate said that, "one sore was so deep it penetrated the victim’s internal organs and her bowels drained out of her hip." Medical experts told the grand jury that bed sores - technically known as decubitis ulcers - result from the failure of nursing care providers to reposition bedridden patients regularly and from inadequate food and water. Such sores can be prevented and, when they do develop, can be cured, by proper medical treatment, the experts testified.

White and Ellis also developed other health problems while at their respective nursing homes, according to the charges. Ellis, for example, developed severe contractures of her limbs. According to an affidavit of probable cause filed with the complaints, "her arms and legs were contracted up into her body. Her left arm was twisted and contorted in a fashion such that her hand was pressing into her armpit. The flesh at her left wrist was ruptured open and the bone was protruding."

Janet Wells, editor of Quality Care Advocate, a publication of the Washington, D.C.-based National Citizens Coalition for Nursing Home Reform, says that the deaths of White and Ellis are part of "a repeated pattern of deficiencies" in nursing home care in the United States. She contends that poor conditions in U.S. nursing homes are due in part to the failure of the federal government to enforce federal standards for care in nursing homes. According to Wells, since the Nursing Home Reform Act was passed in 1987, no federal enforcement regulations have been implemented to guarantee humane care to nursing home residents.

- Russell Mokhiber


Oil in Burma

Fueling Oppression

by Dara O’Rourke

KNOWN TO HUMAN RIGHTS GROUPS as "Asia’s new killing fields," Burma is a country violently divided. The military regime which controls the country of 42 million is currently waging battles against more than a dozen ethnic insurgent groups and a student-led democracy movement. The regime, considered illegitimate by most countries in the world, faces international condemnation and pressure from the democratically elected government-in-exile to relinquish power.

The military regime, which calls itself the State Law and Order Restoration Council (SLORC), is relying on the exploitation of Burma’s natural resources to finance the military battles it is waging against its own people. In 1988, the regime "began to sell Burma’s natural resources like fast food," according to the Burma Action Group, a British human rights organization. A main item on this menu is the sale of Burma’s oil reserves.

With the critical assistance of multinational oil corporations, the SLORC plans to significantly expand oil production in Burma over the next several years to generate foreign currency to purchase weapons. Between 70 and 90 percent of the profits from oil and gas development will go directly to the military regime. The Burma Rights Movement for Action, an opposition group based in Bangkok, Thailand, estimates oil exploration contracts have accounted for 65 percent of the foreign investment in Burma since 1988.

Michele Bohana, the director of the Washington, D.C.-based Institute for Asian Democracy, asserts that "these foreign investments directly support the illegitimate military junta of Burma. The government is bankrupt. They have to get foreign exchange to survive." Further, the SLORC is counting on the large presence of multinational corporations such as Amoco , Unocal , Texaco , Royal Dutch Shell , Petro-Canada and Idemitsu to gain international legitimacy and to fend off proposed international economic sanctions.

From crackdown to build-up

In 1988, the SLORC took control of Burma from long-standing leader General Ne Win, and changed the name of the country to Myanmar. However, rumors suggest that Ne Win continues to exert significant control over the SLORC and its policy decisions. During its coup and subsequent crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators, SLORC troops gunned down an estimated 4,000 students and other protestors.

Following the coup, foreign donors suspended $500 million per year in aid to Burma. The nearly bankrupt regime, which began to run out of money to finance its army, promised to hold free elections in 1990.

In the 1990 elections, the National League for Democracy, led by 1991 Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi, won an overwhelming 81 percent of the popular vote. The SLORC received 2 percent of the parliamentary seats in the election. However, the SLORC annulled the election and imprisoned the victors, including Aung San Suu Kyi, who remains under house arrest in Rangoon.

A small group of donors, including the International Development Association (IDA) of the World Bank , the Asian Development Bank (ADB), the United Nations Development Program and the Japanese government, reactivated their aid to SLORC following the election, arguing along with multinational business leaders that investment in Burma will speed development and eventually promote political liberalization.

The SLORC, in the meantime, continues to rule Burma by repressive military control. Military expenditures currently account for approximately 60 percent of the government budget. Arms purchases in 1991 amounted to approximately $1.4 billion. The military has grown by over 50 percent since the SLORC took power, from 190,000 to approximately 300,000 troops.

Most governments around the world, as well as human rights groups such as Amnesty International and Asia Watch, condemn the regime and the repressive human rights conditions that are regularly reported within the country. The Lawyers Committee for Human Rights reports that Burma’s citizens are "subject to unlawful arrest, detention without trial and torture for exercising their rights to expression and association," and have recently been "forced to serve as porters for the Burmese army, where they are used as human mine detectors." A number of countries have proposed a United Nations embargo, as well as other economic sanctions to force the SLORC to honor basic human rights accords and the results of the 1990 elections.

However, while leaders of many countries such as the United States and Canada officially oppose the actions of the SLORC, they continue to allow multinational corporations based in their countries to operate and invest in Burma, buoying the unstable and financially strapped regime. Multinational oil companies based in the United States, Canada, England, Japan and Australia have directly invested over $400 million in Burma since 1989. And critics say that the SLORC is using its greatly expanded foreign currency reserves to modernize and expand its army rather than to benefit the people. "Despite the influx of foreign money, the lives [sic] of the average citizen of Burma has not improved," contends the Burma Rights Movement for Action. "Instead, it has steadily gotten worse."

Natural resource auction

The SLORC leadership has apparently decided that exploiting natural resources is the best means of developing the country. Current SLORC practices regarding timber, minerals, fishing rights and oil concessions indicate sales of these resources are the primary strategy for raising funds.

When the SLORC took control of Burma, the country was estimated to have had 80 percent of the world’s remaining teak forests. During the last three years, however, the SLORC has sold expansive concessions of teak and other hardwoods to Thai timber companies for clear-cutting. In 1990, the United Nations estimated that 1,235,000 acres of tree cover were disappearing every year in Burma due to clear-cutting practices. The World Watch Institute estimates forest-cutting in Burma at over 2 million acres per year.

Burma has large mineral reserves of tin, tungsten, copper, lead and zinc, as well as deposits of precious stones such as jade, rubies and sapphires. SLORC has been selling the rights to mine these gems throughout Burma. Insight Indochina reported in 1991 that the SLORC had set a goal of producing 49,200 ounces of gold in 1992. This is a 1,130 percent increase over 1990’s production of 4,000 ounces.

One of Burma’s most famous resources is opium, which is converted into heroin for sale on the international market. A number of groups, including Green November 32, an environmental and human rights group based in Bangkok, Thailand, have alleged that SLORC leaders are involved in the illicit heroin trade, with some funds going directly to weapons purchases. David Todd, a Canadian journalist, reported in the Ottawa Citizen that "Western intelligence agencies say [an arms deal with China was] paid for in part with the proceeds from heroin and opium trafficking in which Myanmar military authorities are deeply involved."

The SLORC, however, is focusing its efforts on oil and gas development. Because of a lack of foreign exchange, Burma has had a policy restricting the import of oil, thus creating a serious shortage throughout the country. Oil development is thus meant to alleviate the energy shortages throughout the country, as well as raise foreign currency.

Multinational oil companies move in

All oil and gas development in Burma is controlled by the military-run Myanmar Oil & Gas Enterprise (MOGE). Despite financial and technical support from Japan over the last decade, Burma has experienced a steady decline in oil and gas output, from a level of 30,000 barrels per day in the late 1970s to around 12,000 barrels per day in 1991.

In 1988, due to worsening economic conditions and the precipitous decline in oil production, the SLORC moved to end its isolationist policies and attract foreign oil investment. As part of this move, the government reversed a 26-year policy banning foreign participation in onshore oil exploration and development, and signed contracts with nine foreign oil companies.

The nine multinational oil companies that signed the first contracts with the SLORC in 1989 included Amoco (United States), Unocal (United States), Idemitsu (Japan), Royal Dutch Shell (Netherlands/United Kingdom), Yukong Oil (South Korea), Broken Hill Petroleum (Australia), Petro Canada (Canada), Croft Exploration (United Kingdom) and Kirkland Resources (United Kingdom). These firms were reported to have paid between $5 million and $8 million each in signing bonuses to the Burmese regime.

Since 1989, a number of other companies have also signed contracts with the SLORC. These include Premier Oil (United Kingdom), Nippon Oil Exploration (Japan), ELF (France), Petronas (Malaysia), and most recently International Petroleum Corp. (Canada), Apache Oil (United States), Tyndall International (United States) and Texaco (United States).

By the summer of 1991, according to the Far Eastern Economic Review, oil companies spent an estimated US$415 million on exploitation efforts, hoping to cash in on the SLORC-granted oil concessions. Bohana explains, "the oil companies haven’t lifted a drop of oil yet, but they have thrown hundreds of millions of dollars into the hands of the SLORC."

Amoco’s contract to explore the Block B concession, a 33,000 square kilometer tract located in the Upper Chinwin basin in northern Burma, included an initial payment of $5 million to the SLORC as a signing bonus. Amoco has worked very hard to foster good relations with the SLORC. The chair of Amoco, H. Laurence Fuller, traveled to Burma personally in 1990 to meet with the SLORC head, General Saw Maung. Jim Fair of Amoco says that the company drilled one well in 1992, and "did not find hydrocarbons in commercial quantities." According to Fair, Amoco is currently "evaluating whether [the company] will continue in Burma, period." Amoco continues to keep an office open in Rangoon, the capital city.

Unocal has been working in the Block F concession, and has entered a joint venture agreement to explore the Block E concession, both of which are located in central Burma. Unocal is reported to have agreed to invest $29 million over the three years of its contract. However, in response to high exploration costs and three failed oil wells, Russ Small of Unocal says that the company is "planning to pull out of Myanmar at the end of 1992," when its contract expires. "Three years, three wells, you’re out," Small says. Unocal has not officially announced this decision.

Texaco, the newest entry into Burma, recently bought into three different concessions, one onshore and two offshore, without any public announcement. Onshore, Texaco purchased a 42 percent stake in Block I, the concession held by Croft Exploration and Clyde Petroleum. Offshore, Texaco acquired a 50 percent interest from Premier Oil in two blocks covering 7.9 million acres in the Gulf of Mataban. After uncovering Texaco’s quiet move into Burma, Green November 32, released a statement, charging, "Texaco does not want its financial involvement with - and therefore tacit support of - the brutal SLORC military regime to be known, as it may make it a target for boycott action."

In 1989, Petro-Canada signed a $22 million oil exploration contract for the Block E concession with the SLORC, including an initial $6 million signing payment. Petro- Canada is the 80 percent state-owned oil company of Canada. While the Canadian government has repeatedly condemned the actions of the SLORC, the government claims it cannot influence the decisions of its own oil company.

A number of human rights and environmental groups have called on the Canadian government to pull Petro-Canada out of Burma. The Canadian environmental group Friends of the Rainforest has organized a boycott of Petro-Canada because, it charges, "up to 90 percent of any oil and gas production goes to the military regime." Friends of the Rainforest also argues that "oil investment dollars are helping turn mainland Asia’s last significant forested region into a wasteland. Petro-Canada must share responsibility, along with [the company’s] principal shareholder, the Government of Canada."

Royal Dutch Shell is exploring the Block G concession, which includes over 19,000 square kilometers in central Burma. Earlier this year, Shell became the first multinational to discover recoverable quantities of oil or gas. The company found large natural gas reserves at Ahpyauk, 80 kilometers north of Rangoon. Shell and SLORC plan to bring the well into production as quickly as possible at a rate of 20 million cubic feet per day. A Bangkok newspaper quoted Pe Kyi, engineering director for the MOGE, as saying that SLORC was "very happy" about Shell’s find, and promised many more wells would be drilled in the near future.

Yukong Oil, Broken Hill Proprietary (BHP) and Kirkland have all been unsuccessful in their oil exploration efforts. Yukong spent more than $20 million without completing its first spud. BHP spudded a dry well in 1991. And Kirkland was reported to be considering pulling out of Burma at the end of 1991, after two years of unsuccessful exploration in a war-torn area close to the Thai border.

Natural gas exploration has increased onshore as well as offshore. A subsidiary of the Thai national oil company, PTT Exploration and Production (PTTEP), has proposed a $2 to $3 billion project to explore for natural gas in Burma’s Gulf of Mataban. The project would pump the estimated 3.6 trillion cubic feet of natural gas reserves in Mataban through a 500-kilometer undersea pipeline from Burma to Kanchanaburi province in Thailand. This pipeline would require extensive military protection, as it would pass through areas currently held by Karen and Mon rebels.

The French oil giant Total signed an agreement with the MOGE in July 1992 to develop natural gas in two offshore blocks in the Gulf of Mataban covering an area of 26,000 square kilometers. Total plans to work with PTTEP to develop the concessions and feed the natural gas into the proposed pipeline. MOGE chose Total over two other western multinationals, Royal Dutch Shell and Unocal, in negotiations which lasted over a year.

Most of the actual work in Burma is not performed by these oil giants, but is instead farmed out to smaller multinational oil service and support firms. These smaller companies are performing geophysical testing, cutting roads, building helipads, drilling test wells and providing other support for the controlling oil firms. Some of the largest of these firms include Parker Drilling Co. (United States), Compagnie General de Geophysique (France), Geophysical Company Limited (France/United States), which is owned by Schlumberger, Halliburton Geophysical Services (United States), Grant Norpac (United States), Heavilift (Australia), Columbia (United States), PAE Singapore (United States) and Seismograph Services Ltd. (United Kingdom) which is owned by Raytheon, a U.S. defense contractor.

Oil and the environment

Burma is a country with particularly rough terrain, and almost no infrastructure to support oil exploration and production. Most of the areas where oil exploration is proceeding remain inaccessible by roads. Heavy equipment is shipped up rivers during the monsoon season, and then used after the monsoons have passed. Many activities require the use of helicopters to by-pass the roads and rivers. Forests must thus be cleared to open areas for helipads, base camps, testing sites and roads.

Testing involves the use of gravity and seismic lines. Companies clear one-to-four- meter-wide paths one kilometer apart, in a series of grid lines, and lay 10-pound dynamite charges every 100 to 150 meters. Cables with seismic meters are placed along the grid lines and when the charges are detonated, readings are taken and analyzed.

The companies are cutting roads by hand or with bulldozers through virgin tropical forests in order to lay the grid lines. Green November 32 alleges Compagnie General de Geophysique has been cutting roads "with the use of forced labor in the Kirkland block," which is in a militarily contested area in southern Burma.

Environmental impacts of the oil exploration include the significant deforestation necessary to access areas for seismic testing, and for the construction of helipads. Once roads are constructed into these areas, deforestation follows. Green November 32 claims that "SLORC officials have arranged the granting of timber concessions to favorites in areas of virgin forest newly opened up by the oil companies." Constructing roads also allows the military to move soldiers, heavy artillery and supplies into opened areas, thus securing their hold over the indigenous populations.

Other environmental impacts of the exploration include large-scale erosion around areas which are cleared, exploded with dynamite and drilled. Flash floods occur in deforested areas during the rainy season. Pollution of streams and rivers with mud and silt from the exploration process is common. Disruption of wildlife around the areas being explored is unavoidable due to the explosions, chainsaws and helicopters.

Amoco and Unocal officials interviewed for this article claim their operations have no detrimental environmental impacts. Amoco’s Fair says the company has "assessed environmental impacts all along the way," and all of their drill sites "return to their natural state very quickly." Bohana of the Institute for Asian Democracy disagrees, however, saying, "Teak and hardwood cutting is currently more environmentally destructive, but long-term environmental destruction will result from oil development."

Oil and human rights

Human rights groups argue that oil development has direct impacts on the people of Burma. A Green November 32 statement notes, "recent reports from inside Burma indicate that human rights violations are being perpetrated by the SLORC army in association with the oil companies’ planned and actual activities. Genocidal offensives are being carried out as part of the junta’s efforts to clear potential oil bearing areas of their indigenous inhabitants. ... Tens of thousands of Burmese people are being forced to labor on roads for less than subsistence wages for the benefit of the oil multinationals and the junta."

Because a number of battles are being waged on different fronts throughout Burma, there is also some conjecture about the areas which the SLORC is fighting hardest to control. Green November 32 reports, "SLORC troops have been particularly active in oil concession areas, and have launched heavy offensives in areas where concessions have been offered but not sold, such as the Kachin and Arakan States. There have been very serious human rights abuses perpetrated on local populations in association with these attempts to control the potentially oil-bearing zones."

Sanctimony vs. sanctions

Pro-democracy groups complain that Western governments are unwilling to back up their rhetorical condemnation of the military regime in Burma with economic sanctions. These groups argue that ending oil exploration and development in Burma by multinational corporations may be the most effective means of forcing the regime to acknowledge the result of the 1990 elections, and to restore human rights and democracy to Burma.

But as a Green November 32 statement explains, "When a multinational oil company with the financial and political influence of Texaco invests in a country like Burma, it makes it substantially more difficult to effectively pressure a government led by someone like George Bush ... into applying the sanctions that have been repeatedly and loudly called for. Obviously sanctions would not be good for those U.S. oil companies - Texaco, Amoco, Unocal, Tyndall, and Apache - that have invested so many millions of dollars in their relationship with the SLORC regime."

Multinational oil development remains key to the SLORC’s expansion of the military, and control over the people of Burma. Without foreign exchange from oil investments, the regime would be much more dependent on foreign aid, which is often tied to political reforms.

Until some form of international trade or investment sanctions are passed by the United Nations or individual countries such as the United States, however, multinational oil companies will continue to fuel Burma’s military machine.


Moi Resistance

Standing up to Indonesia

by Anna Laine

LAND IN INDONESIA "is the single greatest source of dispute, poverty and disenchantment for the agrarian population ... namely between 70 and 80 percent of the people," according to SKEPHI, one of the country’s major environmental organizations. The Indonesian government’s power to subvert traditional land rights is enshrined in the country’s law, and the government has granted massive logging concessions to both Indonesian and foreign logging companies. An estimated 1.2 million hectares of Indonesia’s natural forest were felled in 1990.

Over the past several years, loggers, encouraged by the Indonesian government, have set their sights on Irian Jaya, or West Papua, an area that is still over 80 percent forested. West Papua, as its indigenous inhabitants prefer to call it, forms the western half of the island of New Guinea. Since annexing West Papua in 1963, Indonesia has repressed the territory’s Melanesian inhabitants and sought to exploit its rich resources, including rainforests, copper deposits and oil reserves. During the same three decades, the island’s Free Papua Movement has been fighting for the right to self-determination.

West Papua is home to 31 million hectares of natural rainforest - the world’s largest remaining virgin rainforest outside the Amazon. Such forests make the province notoriously inaccessible to outsiders. For Indonesian officials in Jakarta, this lack of access represents a double-sided obstacle. It hampers both "national security" efforts - the army has been waging a guerilla war against the Free Papua Movement since 1963 - and the "East Indonesia Development" drive which seeks to fund repayment of Indonesia’s enormous foreign debt by opening up West Papua and other eastern territories to external exploitation. President Suharto recently proclaimed road-building in Irian Jaya a national priority in order to improve access to the forests for the army, miners, loggers and anyone else with an interest in the "development" of West Papua.

The developers are meeting with considerable resistance, however. The West Papuan Moi people are waging a bold struggle in one of the most militarized provinces in the country against the appropriation of their ancestral lands by both the logging companies and the highly repressive Suharto government.

Moi protests

About 4,000 Moi live on the "beak" of the Bird’s Head Peninsula of West Papua, in the town of Sorong and its surrounding areas. Since February 1991, they have been resisting the encroachments of PT Intimpura , an Indonesian logging company that has been granted an enormous 339,000 hectare logging concession in the heart of the Moi ancestral lands. None of the local Moi people were consulted by the government or the company before PT Intimpura moved in.

A woman from the Moi village of Aimas expresses her anger in "Last Stand of the Moi," a report produced by the Canada-based Endangered Peoples’ Project (EPP) which documents local resistance to logging in West Papua. "The [Indonesian] government has come in and allowed the company to work in the territory of Aimas village. And we the village people didn’t know anything about it ... The company is just working away, without giving compensation to Aimas village," she says.

In these words lie the key aspects of the government’s approach to "development." Not only are local people excluded from decisions to develop their lands, but they are rarely paid compensation. Hasjrul Harahap, the Minister of Forestry, spelled out the government stance on indigenous land rights in a May 1989 edition of the Japan Times: "In Indonesia, the forest belongs to the State and not to the people ... [T]hey have no right to compensation."

In granting logging concessions on peoples’ ancestral lands, the Jakarta-based government effectively assumes ownership of the land. Indonesia’s Basic Agrarian Law only recognizes adat (traditional) land control, "as far as it is not adversary to the interests of the nation and the State." As a joint United Nations Development Program/World Bank study notes, the Law "does not adequately recognize adat rights in land ... thus frustrating environmentally sound, sustainable land management practices."

"They treat us, the owners of the land, as if we were nobodies, as if we were worthless people, people with no rights. But in fact, we are the people who have the right [to this land]," says the Aimas woman.

Early Moi protests to PT Intimpura were met with assurances that the company’s operations would have no impact on the Moi people’s way of life, and promises of compensation of 50 million rupiah (US$25,000) per clan. The company also promised village improvements, such as a new road and an electrical service. So far, however, the company has made only one payment of a half-million rupiah (US$250), to be shared among all nine clans.

Intimpura’s path of destruction

PT Intimpura, like all timber concession holders in Indonesia, is formally regulated by strict guidelines on the allowable cut, the species and dimensions of trees that may be felled and the methods of extraction and replantation, but the company shows little respect for the guidelines, or for the Moi people and land.

The Moi people are forest dwellers. While they do some gardening, the bulk of their diet comes from hunting and gathering. Their staple food is sago, supplemented with kangaroo meat, wild pig, fish, fresh water shrimp, birds, forest greens and wild fruit. Resin from the damar tree is burned as a source of light.

PT Intimpura’s operations are devastating the Moi way of life. According to the woman in Aimas village, PT Intimpura "destroys the sago orchards, the stands of damar trees, the wood and the water; there are no fish, there are no birds, there is nothing at all." A Kelasaman villager explains that the company’s method of dragging out the cut timber with heavy machinery "means that everything in [the machinery operators’] path, all the growing things - whether sago, langsat, cempedak fruit ... are destroyed."

Intimpura’s road-building through Moi lands is also endangering the Moi people’s health and sustenance. Because the company built the roads without constructing drainage culverts, a roadside string of standing pools, which produce unusually high concentrations of mosquitoes and present the threat of malaria and other diseases, has developed. "All the streams have dried up and become muddy. The fish which we used to catch in them have simply disappeared. ... The water is not clear anymore," says an Aimas man. "The birds of paradise have also disappeared; they have flown away to other places. ... Mosquitoes have come into the village and infest our homes," he adds.

EPP activists are concerned that "this disruption of the natural water system jeopardizes the long-term recovery of the forest. Perhaps the greatest danger ... lies in the very existence of these roads; they will permit the entry of more loggers, both legal and illegal, poachers and settlers."

Restricting Moi rights

For the local villagers, however, there are more immediate problems than the long- term impact of logging roads. They have been told they need permits to hunt or gather in the forest, requirements which typically accompany logging developments. The Indonesian Basic Forestry Law states, "For reasons of public safety, in an area where logging operations are being conducted within the scope of the forest utilization, the implementation of community rights to extract forest products shall be suspended."

These kinds of restrictions have incited the wrath of the local Moi. "We tore down a guard post, because they wouldn’t allow us to gather firewood on our land for our Christmas celebrations," says a Moi man. "They said we needed a permit to gather wood. Why should the people need a permit when there is no agreement between PT Intimpura and the people?"

The Moi people have written plea letters and met at least six times with representatives of the company, the local government, the Sorong Forestry Service and the army to protest the logging operations on their land. Both Intimpura and the government refuse to recognize the Moi people’s land rights.

The people’s anger over their treatment has driven them to forms of protest which highlight their desperation. Political demonstrations are rare in Indonesia, where public protestors are liable to be branded "subversives" or members of illegal organizations, such as the Communist Party or the Free Papua Movement, detained without charge, tortured and imprisoned. But despite the presence of the army, protestors from seven Moi kecematan (subdistricts) have risked arrest to demonstrate outside their representatives’ meetings with the company, the military and the local Forestry Office in Sorong.

The Moi have also turned to other forms of protest, which express their frustration at having their lands appropriated by Intimpura. Where the company has posted signs forbidding the Moi access to their land in the concession, the Moi have in turn posted signs forbidding Intimpura to cut down damar trees, threatening the company with fines of five million rupiah (US$2,500) per infraction. The people of Kelayili village, as well as tearing down the buildings of the survey camp, have posted signs forbidding the company from entering their territory. Intimpura has already surveyed up to the edge of the village itself.

A foreboding future

The Moi people’s situation is an indication of what is to come for the rest of the province: logging concessions planned for West Papua cover close to 70 percent of its land area. The Intimpura project is only one of several timber concessions on the Bird’s Head Peninsula. The Kayu Lapis Group, one of Indonesia’s largest corporations, owns a number of subsidiaries working in the area to develop the group’s paper and pulp line.

The government has appropriated indigenous land for its own purposes as well. Since 1981, Sorong has been a target for Indonesia’s vast transmigration program. This controversial project aims to move millions of poor farming families from the densely populated islands of Java, Bali and Madura to less densely populated outer islands like West Papua [see Uprooting People, Destroying Culture: Indonesia's Transmigration Program," Multinational Monitor, October 1990 ]. Ironically, while one aim of the program is to provide the landless poor from Java with a plot of land of their own, transmigration has resulted in the extensive destruction and expropriation of forests properly the domain of local people.

Human rights activists charge that the transmigration program has broader and more sinister goals than simply population and land redistribution. Jakarta’s national security objectives are also a factor, according to critics who say that the government is using transmigration to quash local resistance to the military presence and government development plans. According to World Bank statistics, West Papuans will become a minority in their own country by 1995.

For the Moi, the effects of transmigration and government land appropriation represent a lesson not to be forgotten in their dealings with PT Intimpura. "We’ve already given more than half of our land to the government. This is all we have left," says a woman from Kelasaman village. "We cannot accept Intimpura coming on to our land. We must resist them."

Maintaining Moi land

For the Moi, maintaining control of their land in the face of Intimpura’s encroachment is paramount. No amount of money can serve as adequate compensation for loss of the land. "Our love of nature is firm. It doesn’t matter what kind of compensation they offer, we will firmly refuse it. The only thing that endures is the land," says a Kelasaman villager. A Kelasaman mother says, "We are defending our land for our children’s future - in the future we will need our forest. In the forest there is so much that we need, so many things necessary for our culture."

The Moi’s ancestral domain now being logged is to them a Tamasani (mother or center of life). The land not only has economic value, but is also home to Moi landlord spirits. As another villager describes the destruction, "Tearing down our forests is like tearing out our heart."

The government, unfortunately, has little concern for the cultural or emotional identity of the Papuans, whom Indonesian officials describe as "simple-minded" and "backward." Instead, the government aims, as the Indonesian Minister of Transmigration said in 1985, "to integrate all the ethnic groups into one nation, the Indonesian nation ... The different ethnic groups will in the long run disappear because of integration ... and there will be one kind of man."

Next to this sort of philosophy, any adat attitudes which preserve marginal ethnic identities are bound for extinction. The logging of Moi lands can be seen as yet another example of what SKEPHI calls "the deprivation and marginalization of indigenous people" in West Papua. Others have called it cultural genocide.


The Scorched Earth

China’s Assault on Tibet’s Environment

TIBET’S ISOLATION IS LEGENDARY: for centuries the country lay inaccessible between the high wall of the Himalayan mountain range to the south and forbidding deserts on the north. Successive Tibetan leaders discouraged contact with the outside world for fear of disturbing the serenity of this Buddhist state.

A hundred years ago, foreigners attempted to circumvent Tibet ’s official policy, vying to be the first to reach the country’s fabled capital of Lhasa, the "forbidden city." A century later, the race is not for fame, but fortune, as the People’s Republic of China (PRC) further exploits its occupation of Tibet by opening the remote region to increased development.

The Chinese government treats Tibet as if it were an endless frontier with limitless raw materials - where old-growth forests can be felled, lakes and rivers dammed and minerals and fossil fuels extracted - principally for the benefit of China. China’s assault on Tibet is threatening not only the country’s delicately balanced ecosystems, but the survival of Tibetans and millions of people throughout Asia.

The impact of Chinese occupation

Mao’s Red Army first invaded eastern Tibet in 1949, reasserting an outdated territorial claim based on a thirteenth century arrangement of political convenience between Tibetan rulers and the Mongol conquerors of China. The country had been free of Chinese influence for decades, having expelled the last of China’s representatives from Lhasa early in the century. For almost 40 years, Tibet had remained independent, establishing bilateral relations with many of its Himalayan neighbors as well as with foreign governments further afield. In 1959, China’s increasing encroachment on Tibetan sovereignty forced the fourteenth Dalai Lama, the political and spiritual leader of 6.2 million Tibetans, to flee the country.

The PRC has always claimed that the "peaceful liberation" of Tibet was for the benefit of Tibetans and that their lives would improve as a result of Chinese occupation. Tibetans, however, have little to show for their "liberation." Tibet has one of the lowest standards of living in the world, ranking 153 out of the 160 nations evaluated in the United Nations Development Program’s human development index. The PRC’s systematic violation of Tibetan human and democratic rights has been reported by numerous human rights organizations and Tibet solidarity groups.

Tibet has maintained a Buddhist culture since the seventh century, integrating the religious and the secular throughout society. Historically, both Buddhist doctrine and the Tibetan government promoted environmental protection through religious teachings, as well as by formal edicts called Tsatsigs. These directives forbade the taking of animal life (wolves and hyenas excepted), the pollution of water sources, the unnecessary disruption of soil or the overcutting of forests. "Overexploitation of natural resources and hunting were prohibited both by government decree as well as by social stigma," writes Tenzin Palber, a Tibetan lama originally from Amdo in eastern Tibet, in May/June 1990’s Tibetan Bulletin.

To China, Tibet with its wealth of resources has long represented a valuable, unexploited western treasure house. The PRC’s occupation of Tibet has provided the Chinese government the opportunity to plunder this natural bounty.

The Tibetan Plateau, which includes all but the easternmost reaches of traditional Tibetan territory, is the world’s highest and most extensive landform. With an average altitude of 4,000 meters (13,000 feet), it has a primarily arid climate. Historical Tibet covers 2.47 million square kilometers, encompassing the central provinces of U and Tsang, along with Amdo to the northeast and Kham to the southeast. China has divided this occupied territory among its western provinces of Qinqhai, Gansu, Sichuan and Yunnan, recognizing only 1.2 million square kilometers as "Tibet," known in China as the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR).

Many of the world’s highest mountains border Tibet, and seven of Asia’s major rivers originate on the Plateau - China’s Yellow and Yangtze, the Indian subcontinent’s Arun, Brahmaputra and Indus, and the Salween and Mekong of Southeast Asia - eventually flowing throughout much of Asia and providing sustenance for an estimated 47 percent of the continent’s population downstream.

Spread across the isolated tableland, much of it frozen for months, are deposits of dozens of valuable minerals; oil, coal and natural gas reserves; thousands of plant species (25 percent of which are found only in Tibet); and a variety of native wildlife, much of which exists nowhere else in the world or is limited to the Himalayan region.

The exiled Tibetan government detailed the exploitation of Tibet’s natural resources in "Tibet: Environment and Development 1992," a report prepared for the United Nations Earth Summit in June 1992. The report is the first comprehensive, in- depth study of the impact of China’s environmental and economic development policies on Tibet.

The report, compiled from Chinese and international sources, as well as from interviews with Tibetans in their country and in exile, is a distressing litany of environmental neglect and abuse. "China’s occupation of Tibet," it asserts, "is a classic example of colonialism. The basic intent of Tibet’s ‘development’ is to support the Chinese population in Tibet, provide raw materials and products for China’s industries and income for China’s profits."

Rinchen Dharlo, the Dalai Lama’s North American representative at the Office of Tibet in New York City, expresses hope that the Tibetan national report will "convince the Chinese authorities to reverse their disastrous environmental policies in Tibet." That seems unlikely, however. Although the Embassy of the PRC declined to answer specific questions from Multinational Monitor about the report, shortly after its release in June, Wu Jianmin, a Beijing Foreign Ministry official, said that the report was "not worth commenting on," calling it "full of distortions of the real situation in Tibet."

The report says that since 1949, China has cut 40 percent of Tibet’s estimated 221,800 square kilometers of southeastern old growth, tropical and subtropical montane forests, consisting of spruce, fir, pine, larch, cypress, birch and oak. The Chinese clear-cut most of these trees from old-growth forests more than 200 years old. Official Chinese documents indicate that between 1959 and 1985, $54 billion worth of timber was shipped east to China or used for the PRC’s purposes in Tibet. Although the PRC claims to be conducting extensive and successful reforestation projects, the Tibetan report asserts that, "reforestation and afforestation have been minimal."

Both Tibetans and foreigners have observed the disappearance of wildlife native to Tibet. The first Western visitors to the country frequently commented on the extent and variety of Tibetan wildlife. Some of this wildlife, such as the wild yak, snow leopard, black-necked crane, Tibetan antelope and Tibetan gazelle, is unique to Tibet or the Himalayan region. A wide range of habitats harbor an estimated 10,000 species of plants, a quarter of which are native only to Tibet. Many are of potential economic value, including 1,000 species of medicinal herbs.

In keeping with Buddhist tradition, little of Tibet’s wildlife population was exploited by native hunters. Over the last 40 years, however, Chinese soldiers and settlers, as well as economically deprived Tibetans, have intensively hunted much of Tibet’s wildlife to supply China’s extensive market with meat and animal products. In addition to supplying routine demands by Chinese settlers in Tibet, hunters target some of the more exotic species for export - blue sheep for the German meat market and Tibetan antelope for their wool. China continues to offer some of Tibet’s more spectacular wildlife, such as the argali sheep, to foreign trophy hunters, in spite of international efforts to protect these species. According to data compiled by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources, 30 of Tibet’s 500 bird and 188 of its animal species are rare or endangered.

In the last decade, China has set aside 20 protected areas for Tibetan wilderness and wildlife, totaling more than 296,000 square kilometers, or 12 percent of historical Tibetan territory. However, Tibetans and foreign environmentalists are concerned that some of these areas may be mere "paper parks" - protected in name, but lacking any comprehensive planning or adequate regulatory control or enforcement. They are also wary of any protection plans that do not allow for traditional land uses by local people.

Much of the Tibetan Plateau consists of an extensive high-altitude grassland, known as the Chang Tang. The area has historically been sparsely inhabited, principally by hardy Tibetan nomads who tend herds of yak, goat and sheep. These nomads traditionally managed their range with a sophisticated system of "pasture books" that indicated which areas could be used, when and for how long they must lie fallow.

Over the four decades since the Chinese invasion, range conditions in some parts of the Chang Tang have deteriorated dramatically. While Chinese officials claim that the decline is the result of the nomads’ tendency to overstock pastures, the Tibetan report attributes the degradation to increased demand for meat by the Chinese, as well as to China’s resettlement policies in Tibet which have caused expanding desertification and forced nomads out of traditional grazing areas and onto more marginal lands.

Similar population pressures are also affecting Tibet’s scarce agricultural land, according to the report. The settlement of Chinese immigrants in Tibetan towns and in the best of Tibet’s few agricultural areas has displaced Tibetan farmers and forced them to cultivate less productive land.

China’s mining operations are placing new pressures on Tibet’s ecosystem as well. Tibetans traditionally refrained from extensive mining for fear of "diminishing the strength of the land," according to Tenzin Atisha, deputy secretary of the Tibetan government-in- exile’s environment desk, but the occupying Chinese have no such compunctions.

Qinghai province, China’s "Wild West," is the country’s sixth-largest gold- producing region. Most mining in the province takes place in areas of former Tibetan territory near the origins of the Yellow and Yangtze rivers. The mineral wealth has created a regional gold rush that has brought an estimated 80,000 prospectors into the area. The PRC is attempting to double the province’s gold production by 1995.

The Tibetan report states that only 20 percent of China’s mines have satisfactory safety records and says that environmental safeguards at mines in Tibet "are virtually non- existent," potentially leading to ground and surface water contamination by heavy metals, slope destabilization, river siltation and habitat destruction.

Persistent reports and rumors of nuclear activities and waste dumping in Tibet prompted the Dalai Lama’s government to observe in the national report that China’s nuclear waste "is suspected to be stored at several places in Amdo province" and near another nuclear facility close to the town of Nyakchuka in central Tibet.

While there is no direct evidence of China storing nuclear materials in Tibet, the PRC did offer to accept nuclear waste from foreign countries for storage in China and Tibet during the 1980s. The Chinese government insisted the proposal was only preliminary, and has never disclosed a specific disposal location. It is still unclear whether any of the nations approached by China, including Germany , Switzerland and France , have taken up the offer. China has also invited foreign companies to ship toxic waste to Tibet and has conducted chemical weapons exercises on the Plateau.

The PRC continues to insist that environmental conditions on the Tibetan Plateau are among the best in the world and specifically denies that any nuclear waste dumping is taking place, calling the exiled Tibetan government’s assertion "purely fabricated rumor."

International consequences

Continued despoilation of the Plateau environment has potentially far-reaching transboundary impacts. "The degradation of Tibet is not just a Tibetan issue, it has become an Asian issue," says Sanjeev Prakash, an Indian research consultant on the Tibetan national report.

Ninety percent of Tibet’s river runoff flows downstream to much of the rest of Asia. Several of the major rivers that originate in Tibet, including the Brahmaputra, Yellow and Yangtze, are among the most heavily silted in the world. Deforestation and subsequent soil erosion in eastern Tibet exacerbate this natural condition, contributing to downstream flooding. The frequency of floods on all three of these rivers increased in the 1980s, according to the national report, as a result of rising sedimentation levels from sources in eastern Tibet.

Just as the Plateau serves as an Asian watershed, it is also an "airshed" for much of the continent to the south and east. The northern jetstreams flowing over the high Plateau determine the timing and force of the seasonal South Asian monsoon in India and Southeast Asia. Atmospheric scientists have theorized that deforestation on the Plateau could delay and weaken the summer monsoon, endangering the livelihoods of millions of farmers in Asia who depend on these rains, and could affect weather patterns as far away as the mid-Pacific. The report notes that, "the degradation of the Tibetan Plateau ... may have crucial transnational impacts on weather phenomena, like the Indian monsoon."

Planning for Tibet’s future

The greatest threat to Tibet’s environment, and to the Tibetan national identity, may arise not from present projects so much as from future development plans. Tibetans consider the population transfer of Chinese to Tibet to be a dire threat that has made the Tibetan people an "endangered species," according to Atisha. Since 1949, 7.6 million Chinese, including an estimated 200,000 to 500,000 People’s Liberation Army troops, have been relocated to Tibet. They outnumber the six million Tibetans and are overstressing the carrying capacity of the Plateau.

The Tibetan government believes that Chinese social, infrastructural and resource development programs initiated in Tibet in the 1980s have primarily benefited China’s economy, since they have been established mostly in urban areas where there are majority Chinese populations. Tempa Tsering, general secretary of the Dalai Lama’s Department of Information and International Relations, warns, "From our experience, these projects do not help. What actually happens is that they assist the settlement of even more Chinese, which is worse, not better, for the ecology of Tibet."

In May 1992, the PRC announced plans to create a "special economic zone" in Central Tibet to attract foreign industry and investment through "preferential policies," including tax breaks and low costs for land use. Chinese officials say that the goal of development is to raise living standards and modernize industry in the TAR. However, John Ackerly, director of the Washington, D.C.-based International Campaign for Tibet, says, "The biggest threat to Tibet could be Chinese-style capitalism, if Tibetans are not in control of decision-making" on economic, environmental and development projects.

For the time being, the development of Tibet’s resources and the protection of its environment remain beyond the control of most Tibetans who are not Communist Party members. This exclusion, however, has not prevented Tibetans inside the country and in exile from developing plans for the future of Tibet.

In 1987, the Dalai Lama announced a "five-point peace plan" for Tibet. The proposal calls for the abandonment of China’s population transfer policy in Tibet; the protection of Tibetans’ human and democratic rights; the restoration and protection of Tibet’s environment and the prohibition of any nuclear activities; the conversion of the entire country into a zone of Ahimsa, or non-harm; and the initiation of negotiations with China to resolve the status of Tibet.

The efforts of the Tibetan government-in-exile and international environmental and Tibet solidarity groups to address environment and development problems in Tibet are coming none too soon. While the five-point peace plan and other attempts at rapprochement with China have elicited little response so far, reports of recent meetings between the Dalai Lama’s government and the PRC suggest that China’s "bamboo curtain" is opening a crack.

If Chinese efforts to exploit the Tibetan environment continue to accelerate, however, the end result may be the irreversible impoverishment of Tibet’s ecological and cultural diversity, causing the curtain to fall for the last time on yet another of the world’s irreplaceable ecosystems and peoples.


Draining the Turquoise Lake

CONSTRUCTION OF THE largest hydropower station to date in Tibet, a pumped-storage project at Yamdrok Yumtso, the "Turquoise Lake" north of the Tsangpo river, is continuing despite protests by local Tibetans that the project will destroy the lake’s ecological balance. China plans to invest $140 million in the project, begun in 1991. The power station will have an initial generating capacity of 90 megawatts, capable of supplying the nearby capital of Lhasa with 200 million kilowatt hours of electricity per year. The project is expected to go online by 1995, and reach full capacity by 2000. According to the Tibetan national report, over the last two years, anonymous sources within Tibet have reported that the governments of Norway, Germany and Italy have considered supporting the project.

Tibetans assert that the Chinese government has not performed an adequate environmental assessment of the project, although the PRC claims that the environmental impacts were thoroughly reviewed before construction began. Critics of the project are concerned that the hydro project threatens the lake’s ecology and the habitat of local wildlife, as well as the lives of the area’s nomads who also use the lake, with increased water turbidity, hydrological changes and a decrease in the lake’s water level. Tibetans delivered more than 13,000 international signatures on petitions protesting the Yamdrok Yumtso project to the Chinese delegation at the Rio Earth Summit in June.

The Yamdrok Yumtso project may pose an even greater threat to the more extensive regional environment and to Tibetan residents, since the increased power potential is expected to make industrial development, pollution and the settlement of additional Chinese immigrants more likely in Lhasa. Tibetans are also opposed to the project because it threatens the special religious significance of Yamdrok Yumtso, considered a "life- power lake" by Buddhists. The project, says the Tibetan government-in-exile, "will not provide long-term sustainability or environmental security."n

- J.L.


Battling the World Bank

An interview with Nilufar Ahmad

Trained as a statistician and an economist, Nilufar Ahmad is a university professor in Bangladesh and works with grassroots organizations of rural women. "Born in a well-to- do family, I never faced hunger myself," she says. She first came face-to-face with hunger as a university student working with rural women during Bangladesh ’s 1974 famine. "At that time," she says, "I made up my mind to work with rural people, especially rural women, because they are at the bottom of the pit."

Multinational Monitor: Could you describe your work in Bangladesh?

Nilufar Ahmad: My associates and I mobilize rural women, help them form their own organizations. The first step is awareness-raising. These people are illiterate. They have no information. They do not know their rights as citizens. They have basic human needs and they have the right to all the resources that are available in our country.

After a little while, if we see that the women are becoming more powerful, we make credit available to them, so they can set up small businesses to make - I would not call it a sustainable living - but a living at their own subsistence level.

MM: Do you work independently or with a group when you’re working with the rural women?

Ahmad: We work in groups because, in Bangladesh, we found that networking is most important. In times of stress we need each other’s help, so if there is a problem in some village, we can immediately call on our friends to come to our support or legal aid.

MM: How are the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank involved in Bangladesh?

Ahmad: It is a sad situation. We fought a nine-month war with Pakistan in 1971. The United States supplied arms to Pakistan, so after Bangladesh was liberated, the Americans had no great footing in Bangladesh. In fact, they were very much hated. And the World Bank did not have much footing in Bangladesh at that time either.

But, during 1974 there was a big flood and a great famine in Bangladesh. At that time, Bangladesh was politically more connected to the Soviet Union, which helped us during the war with Pakistan. We also sold the Soviets and the Cubans jute, a fiber mainly used to make grain sacks, that was our main export. Because of its trade embargo on Cuba , the United States stopped all the grain supply to Bangladesh. Thousands of people died during the few months when the grain supply was cut off. So though we tried to maintain an independent international policy, Bangladesh had to go begging on bended knees to the United States. The World Bank started to gain a footing in Bangladesh at the same time.

During that period, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the leader of our country, was attempting to get rid of the military. He said that we only needed the police and militia, not a big military. In 1975, the military came out one night with tanks and killed Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and his family. Under military rule, Bangladesh shifted its policies towards the United States and World Bank. At the time of the military takeover, Bangladesh was suffering; a lot of people were dying of famine. Everybody wanted to help out. The World Bank somehow convinced all donor countries that Bangladesh would not be able to manage all this money coming into the country; that it would not be able to fashion programs and strategies. So the World Bank took the coordination of relief and aid out of our hands.

The World Bank became the coordinator of a consortium of donor groups. Now the World Bank decides what our policy and our budget will be, and it allocates all the money to different sectors. We are totally beholden to the World Bank.

Whatever the World Bank says, we have to say yes. For example, the World Bank and Western states all say that population is Bangladesh’s biggest problem. Bangladesh is a highly populated, very small country - we have about 2,000 people per square kilometer. So the first priority of foreign lenders is population control. Of all the money that goes into Bangladesh, 55 percent goes into population control. They give us Depo- Provera, Norplant, all kinds of IUDs. And they actually set targets for the number of each type of contraceptive that has to be distributed. If we do not satisfy the target, they can keep the money in the pipeline and not give it to other sectors. They [currently] give only 2 percent to education and only .4 percent to women’s health. We have no control over our population policy; it is totally controlled by the World Bank.

In the last 20 years, however, Bangladesh’s population has not decreased. This is because population is not the problem; the problem is poverty. We have a high infant mortality rate in Bangladesh. If a woman does not know if her child is going to survive or not, she’s not going to use contraceptives. So our first priority is to put money into basic human needs: education, health, shelter, food. But the World Bank decides that population control is the first priority.

MM: How are World Bank-imposed structural adjustment policies affecting the country?

Ahmad: The World Bank is trying to liberalize Bangladesh’s trade laws and promote export-oriented policies. It has cut off all of the money for the social sector, so there is more and more poverty in Bangladesh.

In Bangladesh, the industries were nationalized. But the World Bank has forced us - and all the weak countries in the world - to privatize state-owned enterprises. In selling off the enterprises, government officials took many bribes. The public industries that earned millions of dollars each year were sold to the private sector for just a couple of million dollars. Those were public goods. And the people got nothing for them.

Because we are a land-poor country, our economic policy should promote industrialization. Sixty percent of our population is landless and there is simply not enough land for everybody. But the people who bought the privatized factories just sold the machinery, took the money and sent it abroad. They just ran away. Now there is almost 50 percent unemployment in Bangladesh and a lot of additional shadow underemployment.

MM: One of the export products the World Bank is urging for Bangladesh is shrimp. Could you talk about the origin of the shrimp industry and its impact on life in the coastal areas of Bangladesh?

Ahmad: The shrimp industry right now is a very touchy subject. The World Bank has planned a big project for the shrimp industry, designed to bring in a lot of foreign exchange for Bangladesh. The shrimp we grow is not for our own consumption; it is for rich countries to buy.

In the 1960s, the government built embankments around the coastal area to stop the tail-line waters from coming in, to gain more land from the ocean. The coastal areas were the surplus food areas where a lot of grains grew. One-fourth of the population of Bangladesh lives in the coastal areas.

In the late 1970s and 1980s, the World Bank said, "Go for shrimp." And some rich people who lived in the area - with the compliance of the government - cut through the embankments and let the tail-line water come in. They leased a lot of land from the local people and said they were going to cultivate shrimp. The local people didn’t know what was going to happen: their fields were flooded with salt water and used by the shrimp cultivators to grow the shrimp. They catch the shrimp right from the ocean and put it in these flooded areas, inside the land. When the shrimp reach a certain size, the cultivators sell them to outside markets.

People are living on bamboo huts on top of the salt water because they have no place to go. They are sort of like hostages to the shrimp cultivators; the shrimp cultivators hire goons to intimidate the local people.

The women working those shrimp areas must go in the ocean to catch shrimp, and they are in the cold water from eight to 10 hours each day - many of them die of heart attacks or catch fever. When the shrimp are bigger, the women catch them from the cultivating areas where salt water is mixed with lime, which does a lot of internal damage to the shrimp workers’ bodies. They wear no gloves, and their hands and feet are totally decayed, totally rotten.

The foreign exchange that shrimp exports earn is just going to the pockets of a few rich people. The poor people are not able to eat the shrimp, they’re not getting agricultural production, they’re not gaining anything in any way. The World Bank says development is growth, but the point is development for whom? Not for a few rich people, when 25 million people are dying of hunger.

So we do a lot of mobilization in the coastal areas. The women form groups and they guard embankments so that shrimp cultivations do not invade land and cut new embankments. There was a big demonstration in November 1990 involving thousands of people. The goons working for one of the very rich cultivators attacked the women. One woman was killed, another was abducted - she was never found. But the women there are not afraid. They are still in groups, they make protests. They say that they are going to win this battle, that they are not going to go away, that they are going to stay on their land and continue whatever agricultural production they have. They just will not give up.

MM: What are some of the other impacts of the shrimp industry?

Ahmad: The shrimp cultivation causes serious environmental problems. The land that has been flooded by salt water is already damaged and agricultural cultivation there has decreased by 30 percent. There is simply no vegetation - no trees, no plants. Scientists say that it will take three decades to relieve the land of this salinity. It also contributes to deforestation. In the coastal areas we have the great mangrove forest. They cut the mangrove forest to make room for more shrimp cultivation, and this has depleted the forest by about 40 percent.

We are going to have an ecological disaster in Bangladesh. Only 4 percent of the land is forested and we need at least 25 percent. We have big cyclones in the bay - last year there was a big cyclone and about one million people were killed. The bay is tunnel- shaped, and when the cyclone comes it creates a big tidal wave about 20 or 30 feet high. Because the people live in huts, they’re all washed away into the ocean. They just cannot survive. But where the coastal area is forested, the water cannot come in and people are protected.

The government simply has no policy on forest protection. Forestation in the coastal areas should protect the people, protect their land, protect their livestock, protect their resources. But the government is going to deforest the whole coastal area. That is the sad truth.

MM: So it is almost guaranteed that there will be future disasters on the scale of the recent flood?

Ahmad: Yes. Let me tell you a story: In 1988, we had a big flood in Bangladesh. Fifty percent of the land was flooded. Even Dhaka, the capital city, was totally under water. I have never seen such water in my whole life. And the whole world was really concerned when the flood was shown on international television. The donor countries really wanted to help Bangladesh; they wanted to find policies and strategies to help the people.

The World Bank again got into the act and became the coordinator of the relief effort. It came up with a strategy called the flood action plan. The proposal was to build embankments beside the main rivers. We have the three biggest rivers in the world in Bangladesh - the Ganges, the Brahmaputra and the Meghna. Can you imagine building embankments on those rivers? Those are totally unstable rivers. We already have 7,000 kilometers of embankments, and still every year we are flooded. But the World Bank is going ahead with the plan.

At the time, we had a corrupt, autocratic ruler and he was very happy to implement this plan. Ten billion dollars will be spent just to make the embankments, and $600 million will be needed every year to maintain them. We are going to borrow $10 billion from the whole world. How is it going to be repaid? It’s all loans, not aid.

When we heard about this, we started to protest, but the government went ahead anyway. In 1989, the government built an embankment around Dhaka without conducting any feasibility studies. Now in Dhaka we are drowning in our own drain water because the government didn’t put in any sewage - the water inside Dhaka cannot go out.

Meanwhile, the World Bank has already spent $150 million just on the 26 studies it has done for the flood action plan. The Bank has put in all sorts of wasteful conditions we have to follow. For example, for each study we have to include something like six foreign consulting firms. Each consultant that comes to Bangladesh gets paid something like $800 per day - while the average per capita income in Bangladesh is $160 per year. Do you think these people are really helping Bangladesh? We have calculated that for each dollar that comes into Bangladesh, we have to repay $1.50 back. Where is this money going to come from?

What I am saying is that the donor countries are not actually helping the developing countries, the poor countries. They’re just doing good business for themselves. It is their own self-interest they are satisfying.

But I also want to say another thing: that it actually takes two parties to do it. Our government is complicit. The World Bank could not force all these policies on us if our government didn’t agree to them. The government consents because government officials do not have enough political will and because they want to line their own pockets. Only the people can stop this process. Our main work should be to help the people understand that the government is selling them to the donors. Then we can make the government accountable and devise our own policies without being beholden to the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, U.S. Agency for International Development or anybody else.

MM: How optimistic are you that the people of Bangladesh will be able to successfully resist World Bank and government policies?

Ahmad: A great story of hope just happened two months ago. This is delta country. In Ramgati, on the coast, 50 landless families went to a piece of land that rose up in the ocean. They just stayed there and cultivated a bit of that land. After the harvest, the landlord who lived nearby came with the police, claiming that it was his land and that he was going to collect all the grain that had been harvested.

The women asked their men to go. They knew there was going to be violence because the police always protect the interests of the landlords. The women gathered the grain in a field and stood around that grain with their babies in their arms. They told the police, "You have to kill all of us to get this grain." And the police backed away.

I was in a nearby area when I heard this story, so I went to meet these women who were so brave. I asked one of them where they got the courage. And this woman, who is only in her twenties, told me that she is an orphan, that she does not have any parents or brothers or sisters, that she has lived in the streets all her life, that she has been raped many times because she sleeps on the streets and that she does not know the names of the fathers of her children. She told me that she has no money, that she has no shame, that she has nothing left. She has only her life to lose. And if she loses it to help other women who are in the same condition, she said, then it is no loss at all.

I think it’s a great sign of hope that these people will really fight and that they are going to get what they want.


The NAFTA Nightmare

by Bill Day

AMID A STORM OF PROTEST, the leaders of the United States , Mexico and Canada announced on August 12 the conclusion of negotiations over a free trade agreement encompassing the vastly different countries of North America. The Bush administration released a summary of the North American Free Trade Agreement , but declined to release the actual text until it is translated into legal language. The agreement faces perfunctory approval in the Mexican and Canadian legislatures, which are controlled by the same parties which hold those countries’ executive positions. In the United States, however, the agreement must be ratified by the Democratic controlled Congress, where it is sure to be the subject of heated debate.

While the administration and industry groups boast that NAFTA will create jobs and prosperity, unions, environmental groups and consumer advocates predict it could result in increased pollution, lost jobs, lower wages and contaminated food. Consumer advocate Ralph Nader says that NAFTA was created "of the Du Ponts, for the General Motors, and by the Exxons," benefitting multinational corporations at the expense of labor, health, safety and environmental standards in all three signatory countries.

"We oppose it," says Burnie Bond, a spokesperson for the AFL-CIO. "The agreement does not have adequate protection for labor rights, worker health and safety or the environment." The AFL-CIO estimates that if Congress approves NAFTA, 73 percent of U.S. workers will suffer annual wage losses of approximately $1,000 and 500,000 to 600,000 workers will lose their jobs to lower-paid Mexican workers over 10 years.

In sharp contrast, industry representatives express enthusiasm for the proposed agreement. Howard Lewis, a spokesperson for the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM), says, "From what we know about it, it appears to be an impressive agreement that will be beneficial to many U.S. companies."

Costing jobs

The central element in the congressional debate over NAFTA is likely to be its effect on employment. Critics of the agreement contend it will cost hundreds of thousands of U.S. jobs, as U.S. businesses shift production from the United States to low-wage Mexico. The United States Trade Representative (USTR) concedes that some U.S. workers will be displaced as a result of the agreement, but estimates that between 600,000 and one million new jobs will be created by exports to Mexico. The Washington, D.C.- based Economic Policy Institute (EPI), in a recent report authored by Jeff Faux and Thea Lee, estimates NAFTA will cost half a million U.S. jobs.

The authors further predict that NAFTA will encourage U.S. industry to move production to Mexico to take advantage of low wage rates and lax industry regulation. As a result, the report says, U.S. workers will lose jobs, or be forced to accept lower wages to compete with cheap Mexican labor. Faux and Lee cite 1990 Department of Labor statistics which list the hourly wage for manufacturing workers as $14.83 in the United States, $15.94 in Canada and $1.85 in Mexico.

"I think that this version of NAFTA will be very hard on working class people," Lee says. She predicts that U.S. workers in several types of industry will suffer: those in industries already moving to Mexico, such as automobiles and auto parts, consumer electronics and apparel, who will be subjected to both job and wage losses; workers employed at small- and medium-sized businesses that cannot relocate and will become unable to compete with corporations in Mexico; and workers in small service businesses, like restaurants, which will undergo hardship when large plants move out of their neighborhoods. Finally, Lee argues, growers of products currently protected by high tariffs, such as winter fruits and vegetables, cotton and peanuts, will suffer when the tariffs are removed by NAFTA.

Faux and Lee point out that blue-collar workers who lose their jobs are unlikely to gain access to the high-skill, high-wage jobs that might be created by increased exports to Mexico.

Lewis counters that U.S. labor must adjust to inevitable changes in the job market. "The era of the low-skill, high-pay job is over," he says, "and we’d better adjust to it. That’s not the way the competition is going at this point in the game." Lewis recommends that the way to "adjust" is not to regulate trade, but to invest in education and training.

Faux and Lee assert that Canada’s loss of 461,000 manufacturing jobs from June 1989 to October 1991 after adoption of the U.S.-Canada trade agreement is a portent of the likely outcome of the expanded free trade agreement with Mexico. But Malcolm McKechnie, press attache at the Canadian Embassy in Washington, attributes the loss of jobs to the recession, noting that both exports and the Canadian trade balance have increased since the agreement.

Critics of the agreement argue that corporate flight to Mexico will not benefit Mexico or Mexican workers, since corporations will be moving South precisely to take advantage of the country’s low wages, worker rights, safety and environmental standards. NAFTA-induced investments will replicate the record of the string of maquiladoras (foreign-owned plants in Mexico which export to the United States) on the U.S.-Mexican border, where "there is no floor on how low you [can] push wages and no limit on how badly you [can] abuse the environment."

"NAFTA is an extension of the maquiladora production system to the entire Mexican economy," Lee says. "The point of the maquiladora is to import parts from the United States, assemble them with Mexican labor and export them to the United States." According to Lee, because goods produced in the maquiladoras are sold in the United States, corporations have no incentive to pay a living wage. "Very few firms producing in the maquiladoras have any intention of selling their goods to the workers who work there. So it doesn’t matter if you pay 60 cents an hour, because you know that person isn’t going to buy the automobile or refrigerator or bra that you’re producing. You’ve ruptured the connection between production and consumption."

Bond agrees that NAFTA will only further the maltreatment of Mexican workers. "The agreement doesn’t do anything to encourage Mexican wage levels to rise. ... If anything, investments of hundreds of millions of dollars along the border has lowered the standard of living," she says. "There is nothing in this agreement, such as adequate labor standards, to offset the tendency of American corporations to exploit Mexican workers."

Lee says that U.S. corporations have already begun to pursue a policy of "low wage" manufacturing by moving production out of the United States to countries where wages are lower. "It has been happening for a decade or more," she says. "NAFTA takes us several steps further down the path than we’ve already traveled." She and Faux argue that in addition to its devastating effect on U.S. workers and communities, this strategy will ultimately prove less competitive than one in which industry produces higher quality goods more efficiently by investing in the work force.

Lowering standards

Low wages are not the only incentive for U.S. and Canadian corporations to move south, charge environmental critics of NAFTA. Pointing out that Mexico is also notorious for its lack of enforcement of environmental, health and safety regulations, Larry Williams, a spokesperson for the Sierra Club, says, "We do not wish Mexico to become a haven for polluters. We do not wish to set up a situation where it becomes attractive to move to Mexico" in order to evade U.S. and Canadian environmental regulations.

Nader argues that the existing United States-Canada free trade agreement has dragged down both countries’ health, safety and environmental standards, enabling corporations to play the two nations off one another. All three countries will suffer far more, he says, from an agreement with Mexico, where industry conditions are far worse. "The differences between standards in General Motors plants in Michigan and General Motors plants south of the border are staggering," he says.

The USTR refuses to comment on criticisms of NAFTA, but the Canadian government is satisfied with NAFTA’s environmental provisions. "Our environment minister says [NAFTA] is an advance because it upholds the principle that environmental laws should not be lowered to attract investment," McKechnie says. However, he does acknowledge that the Canadian administration had hoped to include language in the agreement which would allow lax enforcement of environmental laws to be brought before a dispute resolution panel. "The problem in Mexico is not standards, it’s enforcement. We’re working with Mexico to improve enforcement," McKechnie says.

Antonio Ocaranza, press attache at the Mexican Embassy in Washington, defends his government’s record on environmental enforcement. "We have a new law that sets very tough environmental standards," he says.

Critics also fear that under NAFTA, Mexico could challenge stricter U.S. and Canadian environmental, health, worker safety and food purity standards as unfair barriers to trade. Williams explains that Canada and Mexico could attack U.S. environmental or consumer safety standards as not scientifically justified and unfairly discriminating against their products. Unelected panels of trade representatives would resolve disputes over this sort of issue. "DDT is still in use in Mexico. Mexico could challenge our complete ban on DDT use," says Williams.

The proposed NAFTA raises another important environmental issue: the state of the U.S.-Mexico border. The maquiladora-dotted border region is an environmental wasteland, where corporations dump toxic waste, contaminate the water and pollute the air with little inhibition. Environmentalists fear NAFTA will exacerbate the problem by bringing more companies intent on polluting to Mexico. "We do not wish Mexico to become a haven for polluters," says Williams.

The Mexican government claims that its recently stepped-up commitment to environmental enforcement is sufficient to address the border problem."We have ... increased the number of inspectors in the border region to 200, a four-fold increase since 1989," Ocaranza says. He also notes that Mexico has appropriated $460 million over three years to clean up the area along the U.S.-Mexican border, pointing out that a proportional fraction of U.S. Gross National Product would be $12 billion.

However, Lori Wallach, an attorney for the Washington, D.C.-based public interest group Public Citizen, estimates that the cost of a complete clean up is $5 billion, far more than the allocated $460 million. Williams says the border will only be cleaned up if NAFTA requires it, and perhaps even imposes a tax to fund the clean-up. "We are not happy that the administration has insisted that the border clean-up be independent of the trade agreement," he says. "Even before the ink was dry [on the agreement], the House of Representatives cut 40 percent out of the EPA [Environmental Protection Agency] budget to clean up the border. What’s going to happen three or four years from now?"

Citizen power

Linking together the concerns of NAFTA’s many critics is a fear that multinational corporations will use the agreement to usurp power from citizens and undercut their standard of living. For Lee, the issue comes down to who will make the decisions that guide the U.S. economy and ensure the health and safety of its citizens: "I think the question really is, ‘Can we take back control of the economy and manage the economy in some way to basically put a leash on the behavior of multinational corporations?’" she says. "I think it’s possible and desirable to do so. The one thing we have to control is access to our market. If we tell multinational corporations they can’t sell here if they don’t respect basic principles, they’ll have no choice."


Trading Labor Rights in Malaysia

by the Asia Monitor Resource Center

UNDER INTERNATIONAL PRESSURE to allow unionization in its country’s electronics industry, the Malaysian government has instead stepped up its anti-union rhetoric and tactics. After learning that the International Metal Workers Federation (IMF) was lobbying for a motion of the United Nations-affiliated International Labor Organization (ILO) to sanction the Malaysian government, Human Resources Minister Datuk Lim Ah Lek instituted a series of vigorous attacks on the IMF, the Malaysian Trade Union Congress (MTUC) and local unions.

Lim has attacked the MTUC and "certain local unions" for trying to "embarrass" the government. In April, Lim said that MTUC leaders were irresponsible for criticizing the government and lodging complaints with international bodies. He also called upon MTUC affiliates to "do something about it," charging that union leaders had been "sitting too long doing nothing," and "getting away with too many things." Lim even criticized trade union officials for being paid excessive salaries and enjoying more perks than other professionals.

The MTUC has had to face not only government attacks, but criticism from rival labor organizations. Cuepacs (Congress of Unions and Employees of Public and Civil Services) and the Malaysian Labor Organization (MLO) were quick to pledge their support for the government’s stance. MLO president, Mohamad Abas, says that the ban of national unions in the electronics industry safeguards national interests. Officials of Cuepacs, the largest affiliate of the MLO, criticized the IMF for singling out Malaysia in its complaint to the ILO, arguing that many other member countries do not comply with ILO Convention requirements. After the IMF submitted its request to the ILO, MLO general secretary K. Sanmugan quickly asserted that the labor organization has no power to bar countries from attending its annual conference and can only "send a team to investigate allegations and persuade the government to take the necessary action."

MTUC President Zainal Rampak denies that workers’ campaign is "unpatriotic." He says that the MTUC is "pro-investment, pro-employment but is strongly anti- exploitation." He explains that the MTUC and IMF have made official complaints to international bodies only after the government repeatedly ignored or squashed the attempts of workers to form a union.

Profitting from repression

Today, Malaysia’s electronics industry employs approximately 120,000 workers. It is one of the country’s fastest growing industries and is estimated to account for about 20 percent of Malaysia’s annual economic growth.

Multinational electronics companies began locating in Malaysia in the early 1970s, after the country established free-trade zones in Penang. U.S. electronics companies, among the first to invest, requested and obtained from the Malaysian government a permanent ban on union organizing in this sector. Labor activists and non-governmental bodies in Malaysia have attempted many times to organize electronics workers, but the government, under heavy pressure from multinational corporations, has fought against union organizing efforts [see Malaysia’s Workers: Jolting the Electronics Industry," Multinational Monitor, September 1989 ].

In 1990, for example, 1,100 Hitachi electronics workers went on strike when the government rejected their membership in the Electrical Industry Workers Union (EIWU). All workers were dismissed and were not re- hired until they apologized to the company for having gone on strike. The company refused to re-hire workers who had been involved in organizing workers to join the union.

Multinationals block labor’s victory

In April, the IMF called on the ILO Governing Body to use its special powers to suspend the Malaysian government from participating in the ILO General Conference in Geneva in June, the latest in a long series of complaints to the ILO concerning the Malaysian government’s violation of international labor rights. The IMF also recommended that the suspension be upheld until the Malaysian government abides by ILO conventions (worker rights guarantees) relating to freedom of association, particularly for electronics workers. Despite these requests, the ILO allowed the Malaysian government to participate in the conference.

Incidents like the Hitachi strike led U.S. trade unions to call for the suspension of Malaysia from the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) trade program in the late 1980s. The GSP program allows developing countries to ship certain products duty-free into the United States. A country’s GSP status is contingent on its upholding basic international labor standards, including the right of workers to organize. The Malaysian government responded to the U.S. labor initiative by announcing that it would lift the ban on unions in the electronics industry.

U.S. electronics multinationals immediately launched a massive lobbying effort against the decision. As a result, the Malaysian government again changed its position and said that it would only permit "in-house" unions. Under this policy, company or plant- based, as opposed to industry-wide, unions are allowed if 51 percent of the workers in a particular plant sign up. Six such in-house electronics unions currently exist, according to the government.

Many Malaysian electronics workers have expressed a desire to join the EIWU, but the government maintains that membership in the union is not open to workers from the electronics manufacturing sector. When the MTUC offered to set up an electronics industry union, the Malaysian government refused to register it.

International impacts

As a result of the IMF and MTUC’s efforts to highlight labor repression in Malaysia, worker rights in Malaysia became a major issue at the June ILO General Conference. During the conference, the IMF released a book entitled Malaysia and the ILO - Two Decades of Violating ILO Conventions. In this 60-page publication, the IMF charges that Malaysia is the "number one" contravener of ILO conventions on organizing and collective bargaining.

The IMF claims that while there are countries where workers are more exploited, "no other country has been so repeatedly in the dock at the ILO on the same issues, with the same condemnation, in the same industry, over so many years." The IMF publication says that the actions of the Malaysian government not only show disregard for the ILO, but also weaken the overall position and established rights of unions in other countries.

Before the conference took place, the IMF had made efforts to resolve its dispute with the Malaysian government, proposing a meeting between a Malaysian government representative, an IMF representative and a nominee of the ILO director-general.

The government’s failure to respond to labor demands led the IMF to call upon all ILO delegates at the conference to support actions against Malaysia, maintaining that the labor organization must adopt a stronger position to make clear to the Malaysian government that the ILO governing body will no longer tolerate Malaysia’s repeated and persistent flouting of key conventions. In response, Malaysia’s Prime Minister Mohammed Mahathir reportedly threatened to denounce ILO Convention No. 98 on anti-union discrimination and take Malaysia out of the ILO.

Corporate Profiles


The Tree Whackers

FOR OVER A HUNDRED YEARS, the Weyerhaeuser family name has been synonymous with timber sales. In its perpetual search for new and cheap sources of wood, the company has plotted a course from the former forests of the Midwest, across the Pacific Northwest and into Canada, through the southern United States, and finally beyond the shores of North America into Southeast Asia and Latin America. Along its journey, Weyerhaeuser has left a path of ecological destruction, environmental violations and depressed economies. Early in his career, Frederick Weyerhaeuser, the corporation’s founding father, earned his reputation as the classic "cut-and-run" timberman. Over the years, the company has refined but not fundamentally departed from Frederick Weyerhaeuser’s exploitative strategy, while spending millions to revamp its corporate image.

Weyerhaeuser has come to be known as one of the world’s shrewdest timber companies, having developed sophisticated public relations campaigns - including a television advertising campaign to gain recognition as "the tree-growing company" - to allay public concerns over the ecological impacts of the company’s patented clear-cutting techniques.

But environmentalists familiar with the company’s record say its actions do not match its green rhetoric. Mark Floegel of Greenpeace International’s pulp and paper campaign says, "Weyerhaeuser is like the rest of the industry. It’s just somewhat more sophisticated at painting itself as environmentally sound." Robert Rubovits, research associate at the Council on Economic Priorities (CEP) notes that, "like a lot of large companies in the last few years, Weyerhaeuser has jumped on the environmental bandwagon, touting the fact that it set up tree farms and has supported other environmental programs. That tends to gloss over the company’s record with a big green brush."

Weyerhaeuser is the world’s largest private owner of timber land, the largest producer of lumber and a leader in the production of cardboard, packaging and disposable diapers. The company currently has timber operations or offices in 44 U.S. states, owns six million acres of forest land in the U.S. South and Northwest and has a long-term license to 13 million acres in the Canadian provinces of British Columbia, Saskatchewan and Alberta.

Can’t see the forest company for the trees

Consistently ranked in the Forbes 100, Weyerhaeuser’s tentacles reach far and wide. Family members, and the families of Weyerhaeuser partners, have owned and managed dozens of timber companies, from Weyerhaeuser Timber (and other proudly- labeled spin-offs), to the Potlatch Company and Boise Cascade. Forbes magazine estimated in 1988 that the family was worth well over a billion dollars.

Although it is a multinational actor in both its exploitation of resources and its sales, the U.S.-based Weyerhaeuser has been careful to distance itself from its international operations. According to Mike Walters, Weyerhaeuser’s director of external affairs, the company has "no manufacturing operations in any foreign countries." Walters adds, "This has pretty much always been the case."

A close look at the international timber industry, however, reveals a series of international corporations formerly owned by Weyerhaeuser or run by former Weyerhaeuser employees that have as their sole purpose the supply of wood to the company, as well as Weyerhaeuser affiliates in Canada, Germany, Belgium, Italy, France, Greece, Spain, England, Guatemala, Venezuela, South Africa, Hong Kong, Russia, Japan, China, the Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia.

Environmentalists charge the company is a major importer of tropical hard woods. Walters denies the claim, stating, "We don’t harvest tropical hardwoods, nor do we buy trees that someone else has harvested." The San Francisco-based Rainforest Action Network (RAN), however, has called for a boycott of Weyerhaeuser because of the company’s alleged hardwood timber trading. Pamela Wellner, tropical timber campaign coordinator for RAN, says, "After the boycott began, the company’s Indonesian operations were sold to Chesapeake Hardwoods. Weyerhaeuser remains a buyer through that company, but now we are unable to get a clear idea of the volume it imports."

It is by no means accidental that Weyerhaeuser’s holdings are not easily traceable to the parent company. The corporation has managed to separate itself from its international subsidiaries through a series of carefully planned divestments. According to Wellner, "there’s no way to get the full scope of Weyerhaeuser’s involvement in other countries, whether it’s operations, use of products or imports. The company has become expert in hiding its trail."

Chesapeake Hardwood in Indonesia is an example of a Weyerhaeuser front corporation. It was named for a Weyerhaeuser plant in Chesapeake, Virginia which produces wall paneling that has tropical hardwood as its main material. In 1989, Chesapeake was "sold" to a newly-formed affiliate of the Indonesian Kalimanis group. Weyerhaeuser managers remain at the helm, and Weyerhaeuser remains a major customer and distributor for the new company.

Other major Weyerhaeuser subsidiaries in Southeast Asia and the Pacific include the Philippines-based Capricorn Corporation; Kennedy Bay Timber, Pacific Hardwoods and Silam Forest Products in Malaysia; and Weyerhaeuser Far East Ltd., based in Hong Kong. In the 1970s, before Weyerhaeuser switched to using subsidiaries to supply timber, Weyerhaeuser’s Indonesian division operated as the International Timber Corporation of Indonesia. Pacific Hardwoods, a member of the Timber Exporter’s Association of Malaysia and the Malaysian Plywood Manufacturers’ Association, was the fourth largest sawn timber exporter and the fifth largest plywood exporter from Malaysia in 1991. In 1990, Pacific was the second largest plywood exporter from Malaysia.

Growing an empire, then cutting it down

Timber provides over three-quarters of Weyerhaeuser’s sales, which doubled during the 1980s to more than $10 billion per year in 1988 and 1989. Timber, however, is no longer Weyerhaeuser’s only product. The "tree-growing company" is now truly diversified, and is parent company to at least 110 major subsidiaries. These corporations range from the Energy Holding Company to the Golden Triangle Railroad to the Bahamas-based de Bes Insurance Company.

Through its diversification efforts, Weyerhaeuser has moved into many timber- related industries. The company’s Westwood Shipping Company runs log, lumber and container cargo from the Pacific Northwest to Japan and Korea. Weyerhaeuser Information Systems, which began as the company’s data processing department, now sells professional services, information systems, disaster recovery and manufacturing systems around the world. District and municipal courts in Washington state, along with corporate customers, use Weyerhaeuser-designed computer systems.

Weyerhaeuser Mortgage is one of the five largest mortgage-banking companies in the United States, with over $11 billion in loans in the late 1980s. A dozen Weyerhaeuser real estate subsidiaries, operating in the District of Columbia, Washington, California, Nevada and Florida, often building houses or office parks on cut-over land, are among the top 10 home builders in the United States, with sales over $1 billion in 1989.

During the real estate boom of the 1980s, Weyerhaeuser expanded its cut-and-run strategy to include a "cut-and-pave" component. Real estate developments, developed by subsidiaries such as the Quadrant Corporation, became more valuable than lots replanted with the company’s genetically altered Douglas firs. "It’s ironic to see such a barrage of advertising from Weyerhaeuser as the ‘tree growing company’ when it is at the forefront of forest conversion," says Jeff Parsons, Washington state issues coordinator for the National Audubon Society. "Taking timber out of production is not very consistent with the image Weyerhaeuser is trying to put forth."

Meridian Campus and Northwest Landing, two of the many developments planned by Weyerhaeuser, sit at the southern end of Puget Sound in Washington state. When completed, they will include 9,300 houses and apartment units on 4,000 acres, and have projected populations of 21,000 people. One of the developments will engulf the 600 residents of the town of Du Pont. Both will damage the Nisqually River Delta, one of the last relatively intact estuaries in Puget Sound and the site of a National Wildlife Refuge. Weyerhaeuser has also leased 344 acres of shoreline nearby for what could become the largest sand and gravel-mining operation in the state.

Throughout the Pacific Northwest, Weyerhaeuser’s developments have come under fire at land-use hearings. Weyerhaeuser plans to develop 2,000 residential units, retail and office parks and two golf courses within sight of Snoqualmie Falls, a sacred site for the Snoqualmie tribe. Although Snoqualmie Falls is the first cultural site recommended by a Washington State panel for inclusion in the National Register for Historic Places, Weyerhaeuser is moving ahead with its development plans.

Political roots

Weyerhaeuser political action committees (PACs) donated at least $319,342 between 1985 and 1990, mostly to Republican candidates. This figure does not represent the full extent of Weyerhaeuser’s political contributions, since the National Forest Products Association and the Northwest Pulp & Paper Association, in which Weyerhaeuser holds memberships, also gave many thousands of dollars.

Like many large corporations, Weyerhaeuser has worked to foster close relations with politically powerful individuals. These friends have served the company well during the last several years of debate on timber cutting in old growth forests and the enforcement of the Endangered Species Act.

George Weyerhaeuser, a Yale ’49 classmate of George Bush, visited the White House shortly before the Bush administration removed private timber holdings from the list of areas required to provide endangered species protection for the spotted owl. Weyerhaeuser, whose company owns a third of a million acres that could have been placed off-limits to timber cutting, denied his visit had any influence over the decision.

The governor of Washington, Booth Gardner, is a multi-millionaire heir to the Weyerhaeuser fortune. Gardner was declared exempt from a 1972 Washington state voter initiative requiring public officials to disclose their financial assets; the public disclosure commissioners, who are appointed by the governor, have renewed the exemption each year. Weyerhaeuser currently owns 1.5 million acres of forests in Washington state.

The company has also maintained close ties with the first administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, William Ruckleshaus, who has been a director and vice president of Weyerhaeuser.

Cutting jobs

No company is more cynical in its exploitation of jobs-vs.-the-environment sentiments than Weyerhaeuser. "It suits Weyerhaeuser to jump in when emotions run high," says Audubon’s Parsons. "Meanwhile, the company is leading the way in mechanization, exports and forest conversion." While loudly blaming environmentalists for destroying the economic base of rural forested communities, the company has worked diligently to automate forest-cutting and lumber-processing operations in an effort to eliminate those same jobs. Simultaneously it has stepped up its shipments of raw timber to countries such as Japan, thus further reducing the need for mill workers in the United States and Canada. The extent of Weyerhaeuser’s exports has caused the company to be banned from bidding for timber on national forest land in Washington and many areas of Oregon.

About 6,000 Weyerhaeuser loggers and millworkers are unionized. Following a bitter strike in 1986, Weyerhaeuser won concessions equal to a four dollar per hour per worker cut in pay. Other forest products companies followed Weyerhaeuser’s lead and also forced workers to accept cuts. Following these wage cuts, Weyerhaeuser profits rose from $277 million in 1986 to $564 million in 1988.

During the past four years, as part of a corporate restructuring, Weyerhaeuser has laid off more than 8,000 workers. "A tremendous amount of salaried people were let go," says Don Truax of the International Woodworkers Association. "It was basically, ‘If you’re over fifty, you’re out the door.’"

The jobs Weyerhaeuser does provide can be extremely hazardous. Logging kills five times more workers in Washington state than heavy construction, the second most deadly occupation. According to a 1991 Essential Information report, Weyerhaeuser is among the worst abusers of Occupational Safety and Health Association standards, ranking third in number of violations per 10,000 employees from 1977 through 1990.

Cutting costs, denting profits

In an ironic twist, environmental and safety problems, often the result of cost- cutting measures, are beginning to dent Weyerhaeuser’s profits. In 1991, Weyerhaeuser reported its first loss since the 1930s Depression. It placed much of the blame on plant closures, environmental clean-ups and severance for laid-off workers. This year, in an effort to avoid environmental liabilities, Weyerhaeuser is in the process of suing Aetna and other insurance companies, claiming that its insurance policies should cover the costs of environmental cleanups at 42 Weyerhaeuser sites throughout the United States.

Weyerhaeuser spends millions of dollars on radio spots and full-page newspaper advertisements extolling the benefits of industrial, intensively managed "forest" operations, and the virtues of "tree-growing." Not surprisingly, it fails to mention the costs to communities and ecosystems once clear-cutting comes to its logical end.

For more than 100 years, the forests of the United States, Canada and, more recently, Southeast Asia and Latin America, have absorbed the costs of the Weyerhaeuser cut-and-run program. With less than 5 percent of U.S. old growth forest still standing, and tropical forests around the world being rapidly destroyed, it seems unlikely the family tradition can continue much further into the future.


Clear-Cutting is Not Enough

A COUNCIL ON ECONOMIC PRIORITIES (CEP) report on Weyerhaeuser, released in June 1992, documents environmental violations in British Columbia, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Washington and Wisconsin, and lists 13 Superfund sites at which Weyerhaeuser is a potentially responsible polluter. According to Robert Rubovits, a CEP research associate, Weyerhaeuser is most outstanding for its failure to comply with air and water quality standards and its "consistent violations of permits for emissions, standards and limitations." Weyerhaeuser’s far-flung enterprises have repeatedly brought it into conflict with the law.

o The Weyerhaeuser-owned pulp and paper mill at Kamloops on the Thompson River in British Columbia is a hot spot for dioxin, a by-product of chlorine bleaching of paper, and a powerful carcinogen. Provincial medical officers have advised against eating dioxin- contaminated fish caught downstream from the mill, which are eaten primarily by local Shuswap people. Barney Lukas, director of public affairs at Weyerhaeuser Canada, says, "Weyerhaeuser can’t say whether eating the fish does or does not pose a risk. The health people have to determine that." He points out that officials "never told the public ‘don’t eat the fish.’ They only said to minimize servings to once or twice a month."

In 1992, The B.C. Environment Ministry issued new organochlorine pollution regulations, which Lukas says are regrettable because they will cost the company "a fair amount of expenditure on environmental adjustments that could be used for AIDS research or relief to Somalia." Lukas says that there is "no scientific body of evidence" to show that the reduced organochlorine levels required by the new regulations are necessary. He claims, "We don’t know how" to conform to the levels that have been required for 2001.

o Weyerhaeuser is a defendant in a $100 billion class action suit alleging widespread poisoning of U.S. rivers and streams with dioxin. The suit was filed by Texas residents against 30 paper companies and the American Paper Institute, on behalf of "every person who has been exposed against their will and against their knowledge."

o In April 1992, Weyerhaeuser’s Merritt, British Columbia operation was charged with violations of B.C.’s Waste Management Act for illegally discharging and transporting wastes. Fines related to the charges could total $3 million.

o In 1991, Weyerhaeuser was charged with violating North Carolina state regulations by illegally removing pollution control equipment from its New Bern pulp mill during operation, releasing tons of ash. The company paid the state a $926,000 fine.

o Between 1985 and October 1991, the Washington Department of Ecology took 137 enforcement actions against the company for violations of air and water quality standards. Weyerhaeuser paid the state $814,600 in fines.

o Weyerhaeuser released 14.6 million pounds of toxic chemicals, including sulfuric acid, chloroform, formaldehyde and chlorine into the air and the water in 1989, the most recent year data is available from the U.S. EPA’s toxic release inventory. In 1990, a Washington state Weyerhaeuser pulp mill emitted more than eight million pounds of sulfuric acid into local waterways.n - G.D.

Names in the News

Green by Association

GEORGIA PACIFIC , ONE OF THE LARGEST U.S. paper companies, recently aired a commercial associating the company with two major environmental organizations without having received permission from either environmental group.

The commercial features a Georgia Pacific employee, Patricia Runner, who says that she is a member of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and The Nature Conservancy. The commercial goes on to espouse the company’s concern for the environment.

Both WWF and The Nature Conservancy are considering what actions to take against Georgia Pacific, although they do not appear to have grounds for legal action against the company.

"They didn’t get our permission, and we’re concerned," says The Nature Conservancy’s Ron Getz. Francis Grant-Suttie, director of corporate relations for WWF, says, "Had we been made aware of the commercial, we would not have approved or endorsed the commercial."

Runner’s "language was her own," says Georgia Pacific’s Sheila Weidman in response to the environmental organizations’ criticisms. "She is just stating a fact that she is a member of The Nature Conservancy and the World Wildlife Fund. No, we didn’t contact them and tell them that we were going to use her reporting those facts. ... She’s not using their names for any endorsement."

Georgia Pacific has been sharply criticized by environmental groups in the past, especially for its timber-cutting practices in the U.S. Pacific Northwest at the expense of wildlife and natural habitat.

Texaco’s Star Settlement

A TEXACO AFFILIATE AGREED in early September to pay approximately $50 million to 180 families, in the single largest residential settlement of its kind, for damage claims after their neighborhood was virtually destroyed by an underground oil leak.

The Texaco affiliate, Star Enterprise , will also pay about $150 million to compensate up to 450 families in neighborhoods that had their property values decrease dramatically since the oil leak was discovered at the facility in Fairfax City, Virginia. There are still about 20 families who did not opt for the settlement, and they will face Star in court next spring.

"In less than one year from the time the litigation was first started, the residents of these communities have been able to achieve the most comprehensive contamination recovery ever obtained and have hopefully established a framework for future relief in other similar situations," attorneys for the residents said in a statement.

The leak was first brought to Star’s attention by residents in September 1990. In September 1991, the Stockbridge Community Association brought a lawsuit against Star seeking clean-up and removal of the oil, and a cessation of the facility’s operations to determine the source and size of the leak. At the time, Star denied that the leak was a problem.

In April 1992, the Environmental Protection Agency found that more than 100,000 gallons of oil had leaked from the Star tank farm into the Fairfax City residential area.

Residents were able to smell the fumes in the air. Jack Maskell, a local resident, described the area as "like living in a gas station." Thirteen feet of oil-saturated soil is under some of the homes. Four families were forced to evacuate their homes in May 1992. In June 1992, normal operations at the Star tank farm stopped and an independent audit of the plant began.

Texaco and Star have agreed to make "significant improvements and structural changes at the Star Terminal," according to the home owners’ lawyers.

UTC Busted

THE JUSTICE DEPARTMENT’S ONGOING Operation Ill-Wind investigation of the defense industry has turned up another case of admitted corporate fraud. United Technologies Corporation (UTC) of Hartford, Connecticut pleaded guilty in August to four felony counts related to defense procurement fraud and public corruption.

UTC admitted to conspiring to defraud the government and to commit wire fraud in connection with the procurement of a Marine Corps radar control system known as "ATACC."

Federal officials charged that officials of Norden Systems, a UTC subsidiary, hired Thomas E. Muldoon, a consultant, to obtain information from the government relating to the ATACC procurement, including the Navy’s rankings of the ATACC competitors and other confidential evaluation information. Additionally, in exchange for money, George G. Stone, a Navy procurement official, acted to keep Norden Systems in the competition when other Navy officials wanted to eliminate the company.

As part of its plea agreement, UTC agreed to pay the maximum criminal fine of $500,000 per count for a total of $2 million. In addition, UTC agreed to pay $2.5 million in civil claims and $1.5 million for costs of investigation and prosecution. The settlement raises the total of fines, civil recoveries and cost savings resulting from the Operation Ill- Wind investigation to over $230 million.n

-Ben Lilliston

Book Note

The Labor Press

The New Labor Press:

Journalism for a Changing Union Movement

Edited By Sam Pizzigati and Fred J. Solowey

Ithaca, NY: ILR Press

238 pages

Reviewed by Holley Knaus

MANY HAVE NOTED THE FAILURE of the mainstream media to cover labor issues adequately. In a 1990 report on labor’s press for the media watchdog group, Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR), Jonathan Tasini concluded that "the lives of 100 million working people - those who make the U.S. economy and society run - are being routinely ignored, marginalized or inaccurately portrayed in the media." William Serrin, a former New York Times labor reporter, writes in The New Labor Press, "It used to be ... that reporters and editors often came from working class backgrounds. Some brought working class concerns to their journalism. ... Today, many reporters and editors regard unions and the working classes as beneath them."

The New Labor Press, edited by Sam Pizzigati and Fred J. Solowey, examines working people’s alternative to mainstream media: the labor movement press. The book’s essays discuss the traditional and current role of the labor press, and offer some proposals as to what direction it may take in the future. The essays cover a range of subjects from labor photography and cartoons to racism, sexism and language barriers in union coverage. All are informed with a vision of a labor press that provides sufficient information - and debate and challenge - for union members to make sound decisions about their lives in the workplace.

In their introduction, Pizzigati and Solowey argue that the need for a labor press goes far beyond simply filling in the blanks about working people’s lives left by the mainstream media. "The labor movement is about empowering people," they write, "about tracing problems to common root causes, about helping people make sense out of the world. ... All this, of course, places a tremendous burden on the newsletters, newspapers, and magazines of the labor press."

Most of the book’s contributors agree that the labor press of the 1970s and 1980s was not up to the task, failing to reflect the embattled state of the labor movement or to challenge the corporate assault on organized unions and workers. Pizzigati and Solowey note that by the 1980s, "Most union papers, unfortunately, published little that could help reconnect members to their unions. Too many labor publications ... had become little more than ‘in-house puffery sheets’ for out of touch labor leaders."

Matt Witt, a former editor of the UMW Journal, argues that editors’ responsibilities to their readership must be written into unions’ constitutions to guarantee that a change in union leadership does not stifle open debate in the union publication. "Members’ right to know about corporate, government, and union developments should not depend on whether top leaders share that enlightened view."

Many critics agree with Witt that labor leadership has had an enormous influence - often negative - on what is reported in the labor press. Pizzigati and Solowey write, "Far too many labor leaders have historically treated union publications as little more than vehicles for self-promotion." The most successful union papers have made efforts to shift focus away from union leadership and toward the rank-and-file. David Elsila, editor of the UAW paper Solidarity writes, "Effective union education and communication mean using as much available space as possible to reflect the experiences and voices of union membership."

The strength of The New Labor Press itself lies in the candid assessments of its contributors. The book does not back away from criticizing labor’s press or union leadership, and some of the essays are discouraging about the prospect of an open and vibrant union press. Most, however, are based on the assumption that a revitalization of the labor movement depends upon a strong labor press that engages workers in open debate about their links to union, corporate, government and international issues. Many of the writers offer suggestions - both practical and philosophical - on how union papers can move in this direction.

The New Labor Press is an essential guide for union paper editors. It also offers much to both labor leaders and the rank-and-file in its discussion of communication and debate between a union and its membership.

The book, in fact, is important to anyone concerned with the state of labor today and revitalizing unions. Pizzigati and Solowey conclude, "No publications alone, no matter how vital, can overcome the social and economic pressures currently squeezing labor. But we deeply believe that a reinvigorated labor press ... can help people feel their unions belong to them."



Burma Rights

Movement for Action

P.O. Box 1076 Silom Post Office

Bangkok 10504


Green November 32

G.P.O. Box 2400

Bangkok 10501


Burma Relief Centre

P.O. Box 48

Chiang Mai University

Chiang Mai 50002


The Committee for Restoration of Democracy in Burma

P.O. Box 8093

Falls Church, VA 22041

Institute for Asian Democracy

1518 K Street, NW

Washington, DC 20005

Project Maje

14 Dartmouth Road

Cranford, NJ 07016

International Campaign for Tibet

1518 K Street, NW, Suite 410

Washington, DC 20005

Tibetan Plateau Project

Earth Island Institute

300 Broadway, Suite 28

San Francisco, CA 94133

Environment Desk

Central Tibetan Administration

Gangchen Kyishong

Dharamsala 176215

Dist. Kangra (HP)


The Indonesia

Human Rights Campaign

111 Northwood Road

Thornton Heath,

Surrey CR7 8HW


Asia Monitor Resource Center

444-446 Nathan Road

8-B, Kowloon


Task Force on

Multinational Corporations

P.O. Box 95316

Seattle, WA 98145-2364

Friends of the Rainforest

P.O. Box 4612, Station E

Ottawa, Ontario K1S 5E8



1436 U Street, NW

Washington, DC 20009

Alliance for the Wild Rockies

P.O. Box 8731

Missoula, MT 59807

Sierra Club

408 C Street, NE

Washington, DC 20002

Public Citizen

2000 P Street, NW

Washington, DC 20036

Institute for Agriculture

and Trade Policy

1313 5th Street, SE, Suite 303

Minneapolis, MN 55414

Citizen Action

1120 19th Street, NW, Suite 630

Washington, DC 20036

Weyerhaeuser Company

Tacoma, WA 98477

Amoco Corporation

200 East Randolph Drive

Chicago, IL 60601

Apache Corporation

2000 Post Oak Road

Houston, TX 77056


P.O. Box 2844

Calgary, Alberta T2P 3E3


Texaco Corporation

2000 Westchester Avenue

White Plains, NY 10604

Unocal Corporation

1201 West 5th Street

Los Angeles, CA 90061

Books, Reports & Periodicals

The New Labor Press: Journalism for a Changing Union Movement

Edited by Sam Pizzigati and

Fred J. Solowey

Ithaca, NY: ILR Press, 1992


The Indonesia Human Rights


111 Northwood Road

Thornton Heath

Surrey CR7 8HW


Asian Labour Update

Asia Monitor Resource Center

444-446 Nathan Road

8-B, Kowloon


Tibetan Bulletin

Office of Information and

International Relations

Central Tibetan Secretariat

Gangchen Kyishong

Dharamsala 176215

Dist. Kangra (HP)


Tibet: Environment and

Development 1992

Office of Information and

International Relations

Central Tibetan Secretariat

Gangchen Kyishong

Dharamsala 176215

Dist. Kangra (HP)


[an error occurred while processing this directive]