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Activists Urge Halt of Shwe Pipeline Project

The Shwe Gas Movement, an oil and gas watchdog, along with a number of well wisher and supporters are officially going to urge the Chinese government to suspend the Shwe Gas and Oil Pipeline Project in Burma (Myanmar).

The Burmese organization has already initiated for gathering endorsements for an open letter to the President of People’s Republic of China to be submitted on October 28 through their embassies in different countries. The proposed natural gas and oil pipeline project is understood to start in the western Burmese province Arakan and to run through the country for nearly thousand kms and finally to reach the Yunnan Province of China.

The exile Burmese have initiated for the Global Day of Action on the particular date and will send the letter to the President Hu Jintao through the Chinese embassies in different countries like India, Bangladesh, Thailand, South Korea, Japan etc. Mentionable that the China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) holds a 50.9% stake in partnership with the Myanmar Oil and Gas Enterprise (MOGE) in dual oil and gas pipelines planned from the Arakan State to Yunnan Province. M. Kim of the Shwe Gas Movement, while speaking to this writer from New Delhi, argued that the project would invite serious threats to the people of Burma. It would also pose risks for the regional security, diplomacy and financial aspects to both Burma and China.

Therefore we demand to suspend the project to prevent a human and environmental disaster from taking place, he added. “We are gravely concerned for the thousands communities living along the planned 980 km pipeline corridor. Based on experiences in Burma, partnerships with the MOGE on infra-structure development projects invariably leads to forced displacement, forced labour and loss of livelihoods.

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The escalation of abuses around a project when Burma army soldiers provide security is well documented by UN agencies and NGOs,” said in the letter addressing the Chinese president.

It may be mentioned that a number of international corporations are engaged in the petroleum production activities in Burma including Daewoo International (South Korea, 51% of shares in Shwe Gas Consortium), Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC Videsh, India, 17% of shares in Shwe Gas Consortium), Gas Authority of India Limited (GAIL India, 8.5% of shares in Shwe Gas Consortium), The China National Petroleum Corporation (purchaser of the gas and builder of pipelines), PetroChina Company Ltd etc.

“In the 1990s, the Yadana gas project was developed by TOTAL of France and UNOCAL Corporation of the United States of America. The project directly resulted in forced labour, land confiscation, displacement, rape, and killings. TOTAL and UNOCAL were subsequently sued in French and US courts, respectively, for what amounted to their involvement in the human rights abuses, and each case was settled out of court.

These same questions of complicity, aiding and abetting, and otherwise exacerbating the human rights situation in Burma are raised again by the Trans-Burma pipeline project and directed at CNPC under your government’s policy and administration,” added in the letter. “Conflicts have already surfaced in Burma, in response to oil and gas exploration by a Chinese corporation in partnership with Burma’s MOGE.

The China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC) Ltd conducted explorations in western Burma’s onshore block M between 2005-2007, which led to land confiscation, environmental degradation and loss of livelihoods. The local community were neither consulted nor informed of the project,” claimed in the letter. It has also cautioned that this oil and gas pipeline project would, if it goes ahead, create a conjuncture in which on one hand Chinese corporations and the partnering Burma army operating on the ground will be responsible for rights abuses and uprooting livelihoods and on the other hand exporting vast amounts of oil and gas to China while the electricity consumption per capita in Burma is less than 5% of the Chinese people. This is a dangerous combination which could further fuel serious conflicts and anti-Chinese sentiment in Burma. The letter of course admitted, “We understand and support the fact that China has increasing energy needs in order to support the development of your country and its people.

However, we believe that in order to nurture a relationship based on regional stability and development, that would benefit the people of both the countries, an urgent measure is definitely required.”


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