Qantas rejects calls to stop Burma flights

Oct 21, 2009 (DVB), Australian airline Qantas has rejected calls from campaigners to stop subsidiary airline Jetstar from flying to Burma, claiming that it is an important service for aid workers.

Protestors dressed as "anti-Burma flight attendants" gathered outside of a building in Perth yesterday where the company's AGM was taking place, Burma Campaign Australia (BCA) said.

"We're urging Qantas shareholders to recognise that their investment is helping to ensure the long-term financial viability and stability of an oppressive military regime," BCA spokesperson, Zetty Brake, said.

Qantas chief executive, Alan Joyce, was quoted in the Brisbane Times today as saying that the company had a "policy of constructive engagement" with the junta.

He added that the executive director for World Vision charity in Australia had backed Jetstar's operations that provide "vital access" to Burma for charity workers.

A commentator based in Thailand's Mae Sot, close to the border with Burma, said that Singapore-based Burmese migrant workers used the airline frequently to return home.

Qantas owns a 49 percent stake in the budget airline, which runs three flights a week to Burma. There have been loud protests in many countries, including Australia, for companies to stop investing in Burma, which is seen to prop up the military regime.

Brake said that protestors would be asking Qantas "to disclose the extent of its relationship with Burmese authorities and clarify its position on the human rights atrocities in Burma".

Both Qantas and World Vision were unavailable for comment.

Australian campaigners scored a victory earlier this month when the Australian clothing chain, Speciality Fashion Group (SFG), announced it would stop sourcing products from Burma.

Secretary of SFG, Howard Herman, cited "the continued repression of the Burmese people and the ongoing presence of military rule" as a reason for it to cease trading.

Reporting by Joseph Allchin

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