Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
Free Burma

Free Burma: Transnational Legal Action and Corporate Accountability

John G. Dale
Copyright Date: 2011
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 296
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Free Burma
    Book Description:

    Through the experience of the Free Burma movement, John G. Dale demonstrates how social movements create and appropriate legal mechanisms for generating new transnational political opportunities. Dale’s work also raises the issue of how foreign policies of so-called constructive engagement actually pose a threat to the hope of Burma’s activists—and others worldwide—for more democratic economic development.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-7653-8
    Subjects: Population Studies

Table of Contents

Export Selected Citations Export to NoodleTools Export to RefWorks Export to EasyBib Export a RIS file (For EndNote, ProCite, Reference Manager, Zotero, Mendeley...) Export a Text file (For BibTex)
  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-xviii)
  4. Abbreviations
    (pp. xix-xxi)
  5. [Map]
    (pp. xxii-xxii)
  6. Introduction: Theorizing Transnational Legal Action
    (pp. 1-38)

    He is frustrated, yet hopeful, as he joins the long march of ten thousand, maybe one hundred thousand, others like him. He is defiant, yet willfully peaceful, as he raises his alms bowl upside-down toward the sky above his head. He is no more than eighteen years old, but he is the moral conscience of the people of Burma who have suffered for forty years under military rule—and much longer under the lingering effects of ethnic conflict caused by British colonization. Don’t let his saffron-colored robes fool you; he is not protesting merely on behalf of Burma’s monks. This...

  7. Part I. The Emergence and Transformation of Burma’s Democracy Movement

    • 1 Burma’s Struggle for Democracy and Human Rights before 1988
      (pp. 41-62)

      Burma today remains dominated by a military-ruled state that sees democracy and human rights as a grave threat to national security and treats proponents of democracy and human rights as enemies of the state. Accordingly, the Myanmar state has one of the worst civil and human rights records of any state in the world.¹

      Myanmar’s fears of neocolonization, as well as social disintegration, are real. In its recent efforts to fend off democracy and human rights, Myanmar has adopted two discourses that are common throughout the non-Western world: authoritarian developmentalism and cultural relativism. The first discourse, on authoritarian developmentalism, asserts...

    • 2 Locating Power in the Free Burma Movement
      (pp. 63-98)

      At 8:08 a.m. on August 8, 1988, nearly one hundred thousand people walked off their jobs and into the streets of cities all over Burma, calling for an end to military rule. In what has since become commonly referred to in Burma asShitlay Loan A-Yay A-Hkin, or the “Four Eights Affair (8—8—88),” these citizens protested against the ruling military’s then twenty-six years of economic mismanagement, political repression, indiscriminate violence, and monopolization of access to uncensored media and communication networks. They publicly denounced the military junta’s practices that, under the “Burmese way to socialism,” had dominated the state and economic...

  8. Part II. Transnational Legal Action and Corporate Accountability in Three Types of Campaigns

    • 3 Free Burma Laws: Legislating Transnational Sanctions
      (pp. 101-140)

      The Massachusetts Burma law, passed in 1996, restricted the Commonwealth’s own ability, including the ability of all of its agencies and authorities, to purchase goods or services from any individuals or corporations that were engaged in business with Burma.¹ The strategy behind this law was to use Massachusetts’s purchasing power in a transnational marketplace, where it procures contracts amounting then to roughly $2 billion in goods and services annually,² to force domestic and foreign corporations to make a choice:eitherseek profitable contracts with the Commonwealth of Massachusettsorpursue contracts with the military state in Burma.

      Massachusetts did not...

    • 4 Corporate “Death Penalty”: Executing Charter Revocation
      (pp. 141-169)

      For the Free Burma movement, the legislative struggle of the selective purchasing law campaign raised an important question: under political conditions in which the federal government seems unwilling to challenge existing relations between U.S.-chartered corporations and the Myanmar government, what, if any, existing legal powers then are fundamentally vested in local and regional states that they can exercise to influence the conduct of transnational corporations operating in Burma? They found one answer in the transnational legal space provided by corporate charters.

      The selective purchasing law campaign had successfully persuaded all but one U.S.-based corporation (and many foreign corporations as well)...

    • 5 Alien Tort Claims: Adjudicating Human Rights Abuses Abroad
      (pp. 170-195)

      Free Burma activists’ transnational legal strategies were not limited to partnering with sympathetic local lawmakers to create new legislation, nor to pressuring politically unwilling state executives to simply enforce existing law to rein in corporate partners sustaining the Myanmar government’s abusive regime. They also developed a transnational legal strategy that centered squarely on suing such corporate partners that would force the U.S. federal courts to voice their opinion on the morality of these corporations’ conduct in Burma.

      In 1996, a dozen ethnic-minority peasants from Burma sued the Unocal Corporation in a U.S. court in a case titledDoe v. Unocal.¹...

  9. Conclusion: Where Do We Go from Here?
    (pp. 196-213)

    I have argued that, contrary to the perspective of most scholars, the pro-democracy movement in Burma did not start down a path of inevitable decline after 1990. Instead, it reincarnated itself as the Free Burma movement through its transnational legal action. After nearly fifteen years, the movement is alive and well.

    Nevertheless, predicting the future of democracy in Burma is difficult. Democracy in Burma will likely not come on the back of a social movement alone. More powerful states in the international community (e.g., China and the United States) will certainly play a role in determining Burma’s political course. As...

  10. Acknowledgments
    (pp. 214-216)
  11. Notes
    (pp. 217-250)
  12. Select Bibliography of Key Legal Documents
    (pp. 251-254)
  13. Index
    (pp. 255-272)
  14. Back Matter
    (pp. 273-273)