Amsterdam, December 17, 2002 – There were no reactions to an urgent call issued on Dec.11 by the Dutch Parliament and other organisations requesting five major banks to halt investments in the offshore company IHC Caland.

Despite worldwide protests, IHC Caland, a company listed on the Amsterdam stock exchange since 1965, still does business in Burma (Myanmar). The military dictatorship in power there has been accused of large-scale violations of human rights. Human rights abuses were reportedly committed also during the construction of oil and gas pipelines for British oil giant Premier Oil.

Premier Oil announced in September 2002 that it was selling all its interests in the country. (1) Many large companies, such as Heineken, Philips, Shell and Triumph have already left Burma.

In 1998 IHC Caland entered into a lease contract with a consortium led by Premier Oil to install a floating storage and transfer system off the coast of Burma to facilitate oil exploitation. The contract runs until 2013 and is worth 250 million US dollars.

Research done earlier this year by Friends of the Earth Netherlands showed that five Dutch banks invested in IHC Caland in past years through long term loans amounting to hundreds of millions of euros.

The banks in question are ABN AMRO, ING, Fortis, Rabobank and NIB Capital (owned by the pension funds ABP and PGGM). ABN AMRO, IHC Caland’s house banker facilitated new stock emissions late 2001.

In April IHC Caland announced that it will not enter into new contracts in Burma. NGOs and groups in the Dutch parliament find this completely inadequate. It would mean that the dictatorial regime in Burma, who are known to make use of forced labour, can profit from this oil income until 2013. Human Rights Watch recently revealed that Burma is the country with the largest number of child soldiers; 70 thousand minors have been forcefully recruited.

IHC Caland claims that it cannot get out of its contract with Premier Oil and that they were unaware of the human rights situation at the time the contract was signed. This is astonishing considering that media attention for the violation of human rights in Burma was widespread even before 1998. The company also received various requests to withdraw from Burma before 1998.

The call to the five banks is signed by the following organisations:
Friends of the Earth Netherlands (Milieudefensie), Burma Centre Netherlands, Oxfam Netherlands, ICCO, HOM, Both Ends, IUCN, Greenpeace, Justitia et Pax, Multatuli Travel, Body Shop, Pax Christi, IKV, TNI, SOMO, XminY, Evert Vermeer Stichting, ASN Bank and Dutch Parliament groups of various colours: CDA, VVD, PvdA, GroenLinks, D66, SP and ChristenUnie.

(1) This was reported in the news, for instance in the guardian

Please call Friends of the Earth Netherlands press office: +31 20 5507 333
Or Burma Centre Netherlands: +31 20 6716 952