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Region's energy needs enable Myanmar junta
BANGKOK: For two decades, Asia's biggest powers have grappled with the question of how to respond to the unrelenting repression of Myanmar's junta. In neighboring Thailand, the answer comes each time Thais pay their electricity bill.
Natural gas from Myanmar, which generates 20 percent of all electricity in Thailand, keeps the lights on in Bangkok. The gas, which this year will cost about $2.8 billion, is the largest single contribution to Myanmar's otherwise impoverished and cash-strapped economy.
Originally posted by mastermind77
my question is this, what happened to chuck norris and the elite hit squads we thought we had back in the 80s thanks to hollywood? I mean it seems like insurging assassins to take out these fat burmese dictators and murderers would work. Or would that be bad for politics? I only know that if i were bush, i would send out the fleet to the shores, use frequency jammers, confuse and annihilate the burmese militiants.
At present (2006), Burma has 34 gas pipelines covering a total length of nearly 1,800 kilometres, according to official data. Burma, with 19 onshore oil fields, has a total of 87 TCF, or 2.46 TCM of gas in reserves and 3.2 billion barrels of recoverable crude oil reserves.
The expedition's scientific highlights to date are:
Discovery of significant gas hydrate accumulations with the recovery of 2,850 meters of core.
Sampling and defining one of the world's richest marine gas hydrate accumulations in the Krishna-Godhavari Basin.
Discovery of one of the thickest and deepest gas hydrate occurrences in the Andaman Sea, revealing 600 meter deep gas-hydrate-bearing volcanic ash layers.
Thailand’s largest energy firm PTT Plc Monday said it has joined the race against China and India in a bid for exclusive rights to military-run Myanmar’s northwestern natural gas reserves.
In broad terms, the scramble to secure access to Myanmar's energy resources reflects a heightening of concern about energy security throughout the region. The most important bidders—China, India and South Korea—are increasingly dependent on energy imports to fuel their economies. India had proposed to build a pipeline extending all the way to Kolkata in the state of West Bengal (although the section within Myanmar would be much shorter—some 290 km—than the pipeline to the Chinese border). The news that the gas will be pumped to China was disappointing to the South Korean government, which is eager to reduce its dependence on the Middle East by diversifying its energy sources. Myanmar's gasfields are among the largest being developed by South Korean companies overseas.
In economic terms, the pipeline will increase Myanmar's dependence on energy exports. Natural gas is already by far Myanmar's most important export, accounting for US$1.4bn in 2005, or 37% of the country's total export revenue. (Myanmar's next largest export, hardwood lumber, accounted for only US$480m.) Myanmar's gas exports are equivalent to around 15% of the country's GDP.
Chevron's role in propping up the brutal regime in Burma is clear. According to Marco Simons, U.S. legal director at EarthRights International: "Sanctions haven't worked because gas is the lifeline of the regime. Before Yadana went online, Burma's regime was facing severe shortages of currency. It's really Yadana and gas projects that kept the military regime afloat to buy arms and ammunition and pay its soldiers."
The U.S. government has had sanctions in place against Burma since 1997. A loophole exists, though, for companies grandfathered in. Unocal's exemption from the Burma sanctions has been passed on to its new owner, Chevron.
Rice served on the Chevron board of directors for a decade. She even had a Chevron oil tanker named after her. While she served on the board, Chevron was sued for involvement in the killing of nonviolent protesters in the Niger Delta region of Nigeria.
China's decision to block the UN Security Council from condemning the Burmese regime's assault on the Buddhist monks and other peaceful protestors underscores its long-standing political support for the junta. This past January, China, alongside Russia, vetoed a Security Council resolution that condemned Burma's human rights record and called on the government to stop attacks on ethnic minorities, release political prisoners, and begin a transition towards national reconciliation and democracy. For years, China has also blocked meaningful sanctions against Burma.
China's economic ties to Burma's rulers are strategically important for both sides. Annual bilateral trade, estimated at $1.1 billion - a huge figure, given Burma's total GDP of $9.6 billion - provides an economic lifeline for the Burmese government. China is also Burma's largest military supplier.
At the same time, the $2 billion oil pipeline that China is seeking to build from Burma's southern coast to China's Yunnan province will allow China to get Middle East oil to its southern provinces more easily and securely. When completed, the pipeline will make China much less susceptible to foreign military pressure in the event of international conflict.
In today's Internet age, the costs of China's support for Burma's generals are rising fast. Just as in Darfur, where China's perceived support for the Sudanese government translated into harsh criticism and threats to brand the 2008 Olympics the "Genocide Games", China's backing of the Burmese generals, particularly if the death toll rises, could cause similar problems. Indeed, an Olympic boycott will become more likely if scenes of murdered or brutalised Buddhist monks are flashed around the world. Moreover, Burma's public health woes and drug and human trafficking are increasingly being exported to southern China.
First it's a fact which few will argue that the present military dictatorship of the reclusive General Than Shwe is right up there when it comes to world-class tyrannies. It's also a fact that Myanmar enjoys one of the world's lowest general living standards. Partly as a result of the ill-conceived 100% to 500% price hikes in gasoline and other fuels in August, inflation, the nominal trigger for the mass protests led by saffron-robed Buddhist monks, is unofficially estimated to have risen by 35%.
Ironically the demand to establish "market" energy prices came from the IMF and World Bank.
The UN estimates that the population of some 50 million inhabitants spend up to 70% of their monthly income on food alone. The recent fuel price hike makes matters unbearable for tens of millions.
Myanmar is also deeply involved in the world narcotics trade, ranking only behind Hamid Karzai's Afghanistan as a source for heroin. As well, it is said to be Southeast Asia's largest producer of methamphetamines.
This is all understandable powder to unleash a social explosion of protest against the regime.
It is also a fact that the Myanmar military junta is on the hit list of US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and the Bush administration for its repressive ways. Has the Bush leopard suddenly changed his spots? Or is there a more opaque agenda behind Washington's calls to impose severe economic and political sanctions on the regime?
Here some not-so-publicized facts help.
Since it became clear to China that the US was hell-bent on a unilateral militarization of the Middle East oil fields in 2003, Beijing has stepped up its engagement in Myanmar. Chinese energy and military security, not human rights concerns, drives their policy.
In recent years Beijing has poured billions of dollars in military assistance into Myanmar, including fighter, ground-attack and transport aircraft; tanks and armored personnel carriers; naval vessels and surface-to-air missiles. China has built up Myanmar railroads and roads and won permission to station its troops in Myanmar. China, according to Indian defense sources, has also built a large electronic surveillance facility on Myanmar's Coco Islands and is building naval bases for access to the Indian Ocean.
In fact Myanmar is an integral part of what China terms its "string of pearls", its strategic design of establishing military bases in Myanmar, Thailand and Cambodia in order to counter US control over the Strait of Malacca chokepoint. There is also energy on and offshore of Myanmar, and lots of it.
SOURCE | www.atimes.com | Read more...