A British human rights group has issued a report accusing Lloyd’s of London and 15 other insurance companies of helping to prop up the “brutal dictatorship” that rules Myanmar.
The Burma Campaign UK report also said that after it had applied pressure, some of the world’s largest insurance firms, including American International Group, had decided not to provide insurance to companies in Burma and were on Burma Campaign’s “Clean List.”
Johnny Chatterton, author of the report and Campaigns Officer at Burma Campaign UK, said in a statement that foreign carriers by selling insurance to companies operating in Burma “are propping up a regime that rules through fear–raping, torturing and killing Burma’s civilians.
“These companies are putting profit before ethics, they are helping to finance a regime that less than a year ago was shooting peaceful protestors on the streets of Rangoon. They ensure that the regime can afford its guns, bullets and tanks.”
According to the report, the Burmese regime encourages foreign investment to generate foreign exchange, which finances the regime.
It said “insurance is vital for the companies that invest in Burma. This campaign aims to make Burma much less attractive to foreign investors by making it more expensive and more difficult for them to insure their operations in Burma.”
The report said that Lloyd’s provided reinsurance to the government-operated Myanma Insurance, and its syndicates have sold insurance to a government-owned airline.
According to Burma Campaign, Lloyd’s said in 2005 it could not compel members to end involvement in Burma, and claimed that it would be “against competition law for members to collectively decide not to operate in Burma.”
The group said that pending investigations of these claims Lloyd’s was removed from its “Dirty List,” but investigations failed to identify any U.K. law or act to substantiate Lloyd’s claims, and Lloyd’s conceded in July 2008 that “competition law is not relevant in this case.”
When asked to make a statement to their syndicates alerting them to the human rights concerns associated with selling insurance to companies in Burma, Lloyd’s issued a July 23 statement that, “Unless there are official U.N. sanctions in place, Lloyd’s does not instruct the market where it can and cannot write business. Competition Law is not relevant in this case. However, we do not make public comments on the politics or economic policies of national or international bodies.”
A Lloyd’s spokesperson said today that “a very small amount of reinsurance is written at Lloyd’s in Burmese shipping and aviation. We are unaware of any businesses at Lloyd’s defying international sanctions. If we discovered any underwriters breaching sanctions, we would take action immediately.”
In addition to Lloyds, among those on the “Dirty List” are Hannover Re, Catlin, Atrium Underwriting (managing two Lloyds syndicates) XL, Tokio Marine and Nichido Fire Insurance Co. Ltd., Sompo Japan, Mitsui Sunitomo Insurance, QBE, ACE, Labuan Re, OCBC Bank, Pana Harrison, Target Insurance Broker, Arab Insurance Group and Al Wasl.
Among companies on the “Clean” list, in addition to AIG, are Munich Re, ING, Swiss Re, Aon, Allianz, Willis and Aviva.
The full listing is online at http://www.burmacampaign.org.uk.
Burma Campaign said its “Shamed” list of companies that would not reply about policy on Burma or state they do not provide insurance there includes Chubb, MMC, HSBC, Jardine Lloyd Thompson and Heath Lambert.
The group said it contacted 500 insurers for its listings. It also contacted NU Online after the news service reported on independent adjuster activity in Myanmar to find out what firms the adjusters worked for. NU referred the organization to the adjusters.
Willis, one of the companies the Burma Campaign said it had pressured, when asked for comment gave this as the reason for its action.
“Willis is a commercial organization that complies with the laws that apply to i. and we constantly review our presence in all markets to ensure that our activities are in line with the sanctions that may be imposed, from time to time, by the United Nations, The European Union or specific countries in which we operate. We also employ a principled, transparent approach to everything that we do. With this in mind, after reviewing our situation in Burma, we decided to cease all business activity there as of April 2008.”
AIG did not respond to a request for comment.