Korean businessmen sentenced for Burma deal

Nov 16, 2007 (DVB), A former director of Daewoo International and 13 other executives were sentenced today in Seoul for providing weapons technology and equipment to the Burmese government.

The fourteen South Korean businessmen were accused of breaking the country's embargo on selling arms and military technology to the Burmese regime, in a trial beginning in December last year.

The former managing director was given a one-year suspended sentence while ten executives from Daewoo and six other South Korean firms were fined up to US $10,000 each.

Daewoo International's defence was that they had misunderstood the South Korean government's extremely complicated regulations on trading weapons technology, according to Ko Thura, leader of the Burma Action (Korea) campaign group, who attended the court hearing this morning.

The decision to prosecute the company executives and the guilty verdict was welcomed by Burmese rights groups, but many criticised the lenient sentences, including Ko Thura.

"The person who gave the weapon technology to the Burmese government was fined only $5,000. The court said this was because such technologies can easily be found on the internet and from other sources," Ko Thura said.

"Although the court found Daewoo guilty of supplying such technology to the Burmese government, it gave them markedly soft punishments for the violations and we are not very pleased with this," he said.

"Everyone can easily understand they deserve stronger punishments. These days, even punching someone in the face during a fight can get someone a fine of at least about $3000."

A statement from the Shwe Gas Movement coalition said that activists were "outraged" by the light sentences.

"Although we welcome the verdict, such lenient sentencing will only invite similar corporate crimes in the future," the statement said.

"These sentences should more closely reflect the seriousness of the crime. Burmese civilians struggling for democracy are being killed by weapons sold to the Burmese army."

Daewoo has faced strong criticism from activist groups over its commercial involvement in Burma.

According to the Shwe Gas Movement, Daewoo was one of seven corporations involved in supplying $133 million worth of equipment and parts to the Burmese regime since 2002 for a new arms factory in Pyay.

The company is also involved in the Shwe natural gas pipeline project, which the Shwe Gas Movement has estimated will bring in profits to the regime of $12-17 billion over the next 20 years.

Reporting by Aye Nai

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