(Boycott Burma series)
(By Leaving Burma)
Imagine that back during the breakup of Yugoslavia that American companies were investing in Serbia. What a picture it would have made to see a Serbian soldier sipping a Pepsi with a couple dead Bosnian victims on the ground behind him. That would have been a damning photo indeed. It most certainly would not have reflected Pepsi's current slogans of "Hope" and "Do Some Good". Yet Pepsi was in Yugoslavia and remained so during the entirety of the Bosnian Genocide. Pepsi (much like Coca-Cola) was active in Nazi occupied Europe. The company ventured into apartheid ridden South Africa (just like Coca-Cola). And has been present in almost every area of the world where genocide has occurred and/or present in countries that suffer under repressive regimes (only exception is that of North Korea).
But why shouldn't dictators and brutal genocidal regimes be granted the privilege of having a nice refreshing Pepsi? After all, they are paying customers... right?
Whose money are they paying with?
The fact is Pepsi has been in Burma much longer than Coca-Cola. In 1996 Pepsi announced that it was only reducing it's operations in Burma by 40%. The next year Pepsi stopped sending the syrup for it's signature drink to the legacy it left behind in Myanmar, Star Cola. Thus Pepsi never really left Burma. It simply left its offspring to carry on it's dirty work in Burma as the mother laid in wait across the border in Thailand. For Pepsi, returning to Myanmar was somewhat like simply flipping on the light switch.
While Coca-Cola builds new bottling plants in Yangon, Pepsi simply walks into Star Cola plants and reclaims what it left behind just over 15 years ago. There is no justice for the Rohingya, Shin, Chin, Kachin, and other repressed minorities in Burma. Companies like PepsiCo simply return to help raise the Burmese upper class even higher by building upon the backs of the downtrodden minorities. And in doing so Pepsi and Coca-Cola help fund the ethnic cleansing of Burma's borderlands.
"Myanmar is a market with great potential, and our agreements with Diamond Star and UNESCO are important first steps towards expanding our presence in the country. Over time, we believe we can build a strong business in Myanmar and play a positive role in the country's continued development."
Pepsi is trying to hide its investments in the still (unofficially) military regime by investing in the "positive" future of Myanmar through organizations such as UNESCO. Yet by partnering with Diamond Star and other companies that have a long history in Burma, Pepsi promises to avoid hiring ethnic minorities. Thus leaving the Rohingya and other minorities in their current state of despair while the upper class grows fat.
Once again we are faced with the fact that we can't change PepsiCo's actions. While the faceless corporation works hard to exploit the suffering of ethnic minorities around the world we must face our initial decision of what to do. If we cannot change Pepsi's decisions to exploit tragedy for economic gain then we must decide on how we view our investments in Pepsi. Just as with any other purchase we make in a free market economy we are casting a vote of approval for that company and all it does with our hard earned cash. By withholding our investment and deciding to avoid purchasing of Pepsi products, we cast our vote of dissent.
However at the same time we must be vocal about why we are not going to purchase a product we may have otherwise purchased. If we simply stop buying Pepsi without making our intentions known then our actions are only self-serving in the fact that only we know why we are doing them. We must share our reasons with others and we must do this without relent.
If you are serious about boycotting Burmese products and the companies that invest in Myanmar's regime you will soon find there is far more to give up then you first expect. So you must ask yourself just how far you are willing to take this. You must decide if you really care where your money goes and to whom it is given.
The decision is up to you and you alone.
(note: not all sources listed)