Burma: Activists Ask For More


Appreciating the Burmese President for his ruling to stop the Myitsone dam project on the Irrawaddy River of the Southeast Asian country, the Burmese activists now want She Gas Pipeline project to be halted. The activists belonged to Shwe Gas Movement calls the newly elected President Thein Sein to suspend the transnational oil and gas pipeline project backed by China.

The pipeline project, which is expected to be completed by 2013, is designed to pump crude oil and natural gas from the Arakanese coast of Burma (Myanmar) to China’s Yunnan Province. The dual oil and gas pipelines, nearly 1,000 km in length (800 km inside Burma) will cross the entire country, passing through more than 20 Burmese townships and many villages. The natural gas is to be pumped from the offshore Shwe gas fields of Arakan (also called Rakhine), whereas the oil will be offloaded from tankers from Middle East and Africa to the port in Arakan and then pumped to a Chinese refinery at Kunming, the capital city of Yunnan.

Expected to supply around 12 million metric tons of crude and 12 million cubic meters of gas annually to China, the construction of the project was started on Burma’s Maday Island in the Indian Ocean during November 2009 over the objections of various human rights and Burma solidarity groups. The US$ 1.5 billion project, which is a joint venture of Beijing-owned China National Petroleum Corporation and Burmese regime owned Myanmar Oil and Gas Enterprise, is expected to produce about US$1 billion in foreign-exchange annually to the Burmese government for the next 30 years.

A recent report titled Sold Out: Launch of China pipeline project unleashes abuse across Burma, which was prepared by Shwe Gas Movement and released in Bangkok on September 6, argues that the influx of male workers into the (pipeline) project area has increased the demand for sex workers. As the demand rises, the incidence of forced sex work and trafficking for sex work may also rise rapidly, stated in the report.

“Like the Chinese backed Myitsone Dam, which was surrounded by armed conflict between Burma Army and ethnic groups in Kachin State, the Shwe Gas project is being built through conflict areas. Since March 2011, the Burma Army launched offensives to clear ethnic armed groups out of resource-rich areas in northern Kachin and Shan States. These conflicts have displaced an estimated 50,000 people to date,” said Wong Aung, a Burmese human rights activist based in the northern Thai city of Chiang Mai.

The leader of Shwe Gas Movement also added that the people opposed the Myitsone dam because they don’t want their natural resources being used to line the pockets of the regime and corporations with atrocious reputations, all at the expense of local people. Hence, the young activist asserted, the Shwe Gas project must be stopped recognizing its ill-affect on Burmese society and economics.

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