Activists seek corporate help for Myanmar’s Rohingya
Cii Radio| Ayesha Ismail| 24 February 2017| 26 Jumadul ula 1438
Activists are urging Unilever, a major investor in Myanmar, to speak out against the country’s treatment of its Rohingya minority, which the UN has said may be “crimes against humanity.”
More than 10,000 people have joined the Facebook group for the campaign, known by the hashtag #WeAreAllRohingyaNow, and hundreds have signed on. A letter sent this week to Unilever CEO Paul Polman asked the company to clarify its stance on the Rohingya.
“Silence in the face of genocide, whilst doing business, is simply not an option,” said Britain-based campaign organizer Jamila Hanan. “Multinational corporations must start to speak out. They must be obliged to use their power and influence to help bring about a more just society in the regions in which they operate.”
Unilever did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Rights groups accuse the Myanmar army of burning homes, mass killings and rape in their sweeping counterinsurgency campaign in Rakhine state, where most of the estimated 1 million Rohingya live.
The Muslim Rohingya have long faced systematic discrimination in Myanmar, a majority-Buddhist country. Most do not have citizenship and are considered illegal immigrants from Bangladesh, even when they’ve lived in Myanmar for generations. The #WeAreAllRohingyaNow group is seeking a restoration of citizenship rights denied to the Rohingya by a military government in 1982.
Hanan says the group chose to target Unilever because it has been responsive to activists in the past.
Unilever, with some USD 55 billion in revenue last year, is one of the world’s largest consumer goods companies. The company’s first factory in Myanmar opened in 2013. It now manufactures food and shampoo near Yangon.
Polman is a major advocate for corporate social responsibility and has won dozens of awards in eight years at Unilever’s helm. He recently signed an open letter to the UN citing concerns about Myanmar’s military offensives in Rakhine State – but not on behalf of Unilever, which has kept silent on the country’s politics.
“We’re not asking for great things,” Hanan said. “We’re hoping that it will lead to a statement of concern. That would be a huge step forward. It’s something corporations don’t do.” She said the group is waiting until next week to see if Unilever responds and if it doesn’t it will start contacting members of the board of directors and shareholders directly.
Source – Dnaindia