Inter-church human rights group the Jubilee Campaign, has welcomed Premier Oil's decision to pull out of Burma. The company is quitting its controversial operations in Burma, as part of a deal that will see the oil companies, Amerada Hess and Petronas offload their combined 50% stake in the company. This deal will halve Premier Oil's debt and increase its net asset value by 16%. The deal which was made on Monday, will lead to the combined 50% stake being cancelled and involves Premier Oil transferring its entire interest in Burma's Yetagun project to Petronas. Premier Oil has been Britain's largest investor in Burma and for several years resisted calls by the British government and human rights groups to disinvest. Premier's investment has helped fund Burma's ruthless military regime which is currently committing genocide and war crimes against the Karen, Karenni and Shan ethnic minorities. The systematic atrocities against these ethnic groups include extrajudicial executions, torture, rape, forced labour and destruction of villages. The Yetagun pipeline which Premier Oil operated runs through the territory of the Karen and Mon ethnic groups. Its construction led to the increased militarisation of these areas as more Burmese troops were brought in to provide security for the pipeline. This led to an increase in human rights abuses against the ethnic minorities living near the Yetagun pipeline including the destruction of villages and the use of forced labour. Recently the Shan Human Rights Foundation and Shan Women's Action Network produced a report, "Licence to Rape", on the systematic rape of Shan women by Burmese soldiers. The report makes for disturbing reading, including reports of horrific atrocities such as the rape and burning alive of 14 year old Nang Sam Hoom and a 20 year old girl who was raped and had her breasts cut off before being killed. Premier Oil says their decision to withdraw was in order to restructure the company, not in response to criticism or political pressure. The Jubilee Campaign, has been calling for an end to the genocide and war crimes in Burma and has so far helped to secure three debates in the British Parliament on this subject. Jubilee has also been campaigning since 1998 for Premier Oil to withdraw from the country. Jubilee's researcher and Parliamentary Officer, Wilfred Wong, said: "While we welcome Premier Oil's withdrawal of investment from Burma, there is still much to do as the French oil company, TotalFinaElf, continues to operate there. Jubilee will continue to campaign for an end to their investment in Burma and to remind them that they cannot simply ignore the fact that they are doing business with a genocidal and murderous regime." source: Jubilee Campaign
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