'Expose backers of Burma'

Insurance employees urged to denounce companies with links to military regime.

Burma: slammed for its handling of Cyclone Nargis
Burma: slammed for its handling of Cyclone Nargis

The Burma Campaign UK has begun a PR offensive to encourage insurance industry employees to blow the whistle on companies with links to Burma.

The whistleblower initiative is the latest development in a wider campaign launched on Tuesday. A report 'named and shamed' 16 insurance firms that it claimed directly or indirectly sold insurance to companies in Burma. The group said this business was 'propping up a regime that rules through fear, raping, torturing and killing civilians'.

The Burma Campaign UK's campaign officer Johnny Chatterton said: 'We're sure many people in the insurance sector are not happy that the industry is helping to fund Burma's brutal dictatorship. Professionals can come forward and let us know in absolute confidence if they know of a company that is involved.'

Chatterton said recent coverage of the situation in Burma had increased media interest and knowledge of the subject, making it easier to sell in stories. 'People know how brutal the Burma regime can be after coverage of the revolution and Cyclone Nargis,' he said. 'They want to know why it is still in power. Journalists are interested in identifying the corporate backers of the regime.'

The Burma Campaign UK launched the campaign to target the industry in the run-up to the September renewal season for the insurance market. Key media targets include insurance trade press and mainstream outlets. The campaign group hoped both industry and public pressure on companies would force them to terminate contracts.

The campaign launch will be followed up with a summer of direct action against the shamed companies to keep the issue in the public eye.

After the summer recess, the group will lobby the Government, attempting to meet with the All Party Parliamentary Group on Insurance and Financial Services. It will also take the campaign to the EU, asking for sanctions to be imposed to prevent companies from selling insurance to companies in Burma.

The group has been researching the issue for the past six months. It approached 600 companies it suspected could be operating in Burma. Firms including Munich Re agreed to terminate cover to companies operating in the country.

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