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Sample Letter to Canadian Importers

Date

Dear President/CEO:

We are writing to express our deep concern regarding your business dealings in Burma. As you may be aware, the importation of clothing from Burma into Canada has serious ethical implications and is opposed by the Canadian government. We hope that you will join a growing list of companies that are publicly declaring their commitment not to do business with the military dictatorship of Burma and all of its affiliated companies and organizations.

Burma’s military dictatorship is an illegal regime which cancelled the results of the country’s 1990 elections, thereby retaining its hold on power. Even though Nobel Peace Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi and her party, the National League for Democracy (NLD), won 82% of parliamentary seats, she is still under house arrest and her party is still prevented from taking office. Moreover, NLD members and other opponents of the military regime face ongoing repression from the authorities. Human rights abuses such as arbitrary arrest and imprisonment, torture, rape, and forced labour, are commonplace in Burma. Currently, there are 1,500 political prisoners languishing in the country’s jails.

Burma’s military regime owns apparel factories, wholly or partially, which provide profits to the regime and its arms procurement body, “the Directorate of Procurement of the Ministry of Defence.” In addition, like many industries in the country, the garment industry is intimately tied to the heroin trade, which the Burmese junta promotes, protects and profits from. This was well exemplified in June 2000 when it was discovered that one of Wal-Mart Canada’s supply factories in Burma was owned by the notorious Burmese drug lord, Lo Hsing han.

A 1998 Commission of Inquiry by the United Nations’ International Labour Organization (ILO) issued a report revealing the pervasive nature of forced labour in Burma, which is often accompanied by other severe abuses. Since then, the ILO has effectively expelled Burma and has issued an unprecedented resolution calling for all ILO members to review their relations with Burma to ensure that they are not contributing to the widespread system of forced labour in the country.

By committing not to do business with Burma, you would not only avoid supporting a brutal military regime, you may also avoid tarnishing your company’s reputation by becoming a target of consumer pressure in the future. Over the past year, more than 23 companies in North America have ceased importing from Burma due to citizens’ advocacy campaigns in Canada and the United States.

We would request that your company confirm in writing that it is not currently sourcing from Burma (or Myanmar, as it appears on apparel labels), and clarify that you will not do any future sourcing from Burma or sell products made in Burma until the democratically elected leaders of that country determine that respect for labour and human rights has improved sufficiently to allow companies to reestablish business relations with Burma.

We look forward to your prompt response on this important issue.

Sincerely,


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Canadian Friends of Burma, 145 Spruce St. Suite 206, Ottawa, ON K1R 6P1
tel#: (613) 237-8056, fax#: (613) 563-0017