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The world has been informed in no uncertain terms of the concern of the First Family of the USA over the cause of democracy and freedom in Burma. The commitment of Washington to the corporate cause, however, has proven greater.
On September 19, Laura Bush told a UN Roundtable Discussion that the US government would take steps to ensure that the issue of democracy in Burma was "not overlooked" in the Security Council. Kristin Silverberg, US assistant secretary of state for international organization affairs, called this "incredibly ... moving." It might have been as moving as her earlier, much-quoted statement, "I am a Desperate Housewife." But it made no mention of a main pillar of support for Burma's military junta - corporate carpetbaggers.
As blood flows, so does country's black gold
WHILE Burma's junta cracks down on pro-democracy protests, oil companies are jostling for access to the country's largely untapped gas and oil fields.
Just last week - as marches led by Buddhist monks drew thousands in the country's biggest cities - Indian oil minister Murli Deora was in the capital, Rangoon, for the signing of contracts between state-controlled ONGC Videsh and the country's military rulers to explore three offshore blocks.
Companies from China, South Korea, Thailand and elsewhere also are looking to exploit the energy resources of the desperately poor country.
In addition, since May 1997, the U.S. Government has prohibited new investment by U.S. persons or entities. A number of U.S. companies exited the Burma market even prior to the imposition of sanctions due to a worsening business climate and mounting criticism from human rights groups, consumers, and shareholders. The United States has also imposed countermeasures on Burma due to its inadequate measures to eliminate money laundering.
Due to its particularly severe violations of religious freedom, the United States has designated Burma a Country of Particular Concern (CPC) under the International Religious Freedom Act. Burma is also designated a Tier 3 Country in the Trafficking in Persons Report for its use of forced labor, and is subject to additional sanctions as a result.
The United States downgraded its level of representation in Burma from Ambassador to Chargé dAffaires after the governments crackdown on the democratic opposition in 1988 and its failure to honor the results of the 1990 parliamentary election.
French Oil Company Defends Burma Energy Projects
French oil group Total says it has not made any new acquisitions or investments in Burma since 1998, after French President Nicolas Sarkozy on Wednesday urged the company to freeze investments in the southeast Asian country.
Total defended its business in Burma, saying companies that would take their place in the country may be less ethical.
Using the invested dollars of companies like Unocal, Texaco, ARCO, Total, CALTEX (a joint venture of Chevron and Texaco), and Pepsi, the Burmese government carries out environmental destruction and genocide. The SLORC has an embassy in Washington and retains its seat at the United Nations. The U.S. embassy is open for business in Rangoon, with a DEA presence and a commercial attachi available to provide companies with advice on how to invest in Burma.
Aung San Suu Kyi herself has criticized foreign corporations for "coming to do business when it is a matter of life and death for all of us." If Unocal and Total proceed with their pipeline construction, a 200-foot-wide scar will be cut from the Andaman Sea through the rain forest, twenty-seven miles to Nai et Taung. Wetlands, riverbeds, and farmland will be destroyed, and the offshore section will damage fragile coral reefs and fishing grounds.
Burma Economic Watch 2006 pdf
Welcome to the first issue of Burma Economic Watch (BEW) for 2006. BEW is a periodical
that aims to provide up-to-date and reliable data, analysis and commentary on the economy
of Burma. Information on the Burmese economy is both difficult to obtain and notoriously
unreliable. Comment and analysis is often scarcely less so. Our aim is to make a modest
contribution to improving each, and to encourage informed debate.
China bets on Myanmar status quo for gas
HONG KONG -- China struck an energy coup with a pipeline deal in Myanmar earlier this year but its cozy relationship with the ruling generals could come back to haunt it if the investment environment opens up, analysts say.
The military government of the impoverished southeast Asian state gets most of its export earnings from selling gas to Thailand and it has stepped up a drive to attract more foreign investment in the last three years.
GUANGZHOU (XFN-ASIA) - The China-Myanmar oil pipeline project, which will transship oil imported from the Middle East, has won Chinese government approval, a source told XFN-Asia.
The Chinese side is drafting detailed plans for the construction of the pipeline, which will go to Chongqing in southwestern China, said the source, who declined to be identified.
In January, China National Petroleum Corp (CNPC) signed production sharing contracts with Myanmar's Ministry of Energy covering crude oil and natural gas exploration projects in three deep-sea blocks off western Myanmar.
The China Oil News reported earlier this year that construction of the pipeline is expected to start this year.
Chinese oil giant PetroChina appears to have won the last round by snatching a gas pipeline agreement from under India's nose. It has sweetened the deal by talking to Myanmar about running an oil pipeline along the same route.
Such a pipeline would ease the passage of Saudi crude bound for China by cutting out the congested Malacca Straits, but would be dependent on the goodwill of the regime in Myanmar.
Intrigued by Kong's remarks, Asia Times Online sent a team to the southern province of Yunnan, and into Myanmar itself, to investigate the nature and scale of the border "adjustment", and to try to determine why it is taking place. Had a US military force been secretly deployed inside Myanmar, as one rumor had it? Or, more likely, was Beijing worried that the embattled military dictatorship in Yangon was losing control of the country all on its own, without interference by Americans in the shadows?
Shwe, the Burmese word for gold, and the name of gas reserves recently discovered off the coast of western Burma, aptly describes what lies under the sea and its significance to the military regime ruling the country. With a conservative total market value of US$37 billion , it will be the largest single source of income to date for the SPDC.
The junta has become adept at "resource diplomacy," giving neighbours a substantial slice of the country’s natural wealth through trade and investment in return for revenue and political support. Located between China, India, and Thailand, Burma is able to play its neighbours against each other in their race for resources.
Anglicans boycott TOTAL gasoline
A progressive church in Bradford is calling on all churches to advocate a boycott on Total garages during the present crisis in Burma - because the company is seen as an important prop to the murderous regime there.
Members of JustChurch, a Bradford city centre 'fresh expression' of church within the Anglican tradition, blockaded a Total Garage in the city centre and urged drivers to go elsewhere.
PTTEP first struck natural gas at M9 Block in early 2007 when it found natural gas at Zawtika-1A well. The test results of the first well together with the two newly drilled wells made the company confident in the natural gas potential on the eastern area of M9 Block. In the near future, PTTEP will drill exploration well Zawtika-2 and 4-5 appraisal wells to confirm the petroleum reserves. It will also lay down plans to develop the natural gas in the area with the aim to start production in 2011 or 2012 for local use and for export to Thailand.
M9 Block is in the Gulf of Mataban in the Union of Myanmar about 300 kilometers south of Yangon. PTTEP has held production sharing contract with the Government of Myanmar since 2003 and has 100% interest in M7 and M9 Blocks.
PTTEP has closely monitored the situation in the Union of Myanmar and would like to report that the production of natural gas is now continuing at the normal rate. Yadana Project is producing about 650 million cubic feet of gas per day (MMSCFD) while Yetagun Project is producing about 430 MMSCFD. Exploration work at M9 Block is also progressing normally.
Yetagun pipelines during the second half the 1990s, which happened in three clear stages:
At an early stage of the project, the region became increasingly militarised, and local villagers had to leave their lands without any compensation.
Relocated battalions appropriated agricultural lands and further forced local villagers to provide food for the troops, thus seriously impeding the livelihoods of thousands of villagers.
Many locals were conscripted as porters and forced labourers to construct military camps and military infrastructure. Others were forced to clear land and build roads along the pipeline corridor and supply routes.
Moreover, communities in the Yadana/Yetagun pipeline corridor suffered torture, and there are reports of numerous extra judicial killings and the rape of ethnic minority women by the Burmese military. Thousands of refugees took shelter in refugee camps, while others became internally displaced.
After years of drawn out legal battles, the two corporations involved in the project, Unocal and Total, both agreed to settle separate multi-million dollar cases in U.S. and French courts. In the early 2006 settlements, the corporations agreed to compensate Burmese plaintiffs as well as set up a fund to benefit villagers from Burma. A third corporation, Premier Oil, pulled out of the project in 2002 after international pressure. Excerpts from Total Denial Continues provide a grim forewarning should the Shwe project advance:
A mobilization of troops swiftly and fiercely brought the populations of the Yadana/Yetagun project area under control. An area that previously had no permanent army outposts was suddenly flooded with troops, involving at least 16 battalions (p.23).
The 670 km pipeline to send natural gas from the Yadana fields in offshore
Burma to fuel electricity plants in Thailand has faced opposition both inside Burma and internationally, making it one of the world's most controversial infrastructure projects. Since construction began in early 1995 in Burma, international human rights groups have demanded that the two oil companies -- Total of France and Unocal of USA -- pull out of the project on the grounds that revenue from the gas will strengthen the State Law and Order Restoration Council (SLORC), Burma's repressive military
The pipeline route will cut a 20- 80 metre - wide route through 26 km of
Thailand's western forest ecosystem, which covers an area of about 600,000 hectares contiguous with forests across the border in Burma. The western forest complex forms one of the largest protected area in mainland southeast Asia comprising 14 Protected Areas of which the Thung Yai Naresuan-Huai Kha Kaeng Wildlife Sanctuary complex is an internationally recognized site accorded UNESCO World Heritage Site status.
The Tennaserim Range seismic zone has two major active faults: Si Sawat and Three Pagodas Fault, leading to concerns about gas leakage, possibly
resulting in massive explosions, landslides and severe soil erosion from
building a pipeline in a known earthquake zone. Almost the entire Thai
section of the pipeline is located practically on top of the Three Pagodas
Fault. The Department of Meteorology recorded the epicentre of earthquakes near the project area six times during 1983-1988 at Si Sawat and Thong Pha Phum districts with magnitude of 4.1-4. 5 on the Richter Scale.
The PTT will present their revised EIA (enviromental impact assesment) to the NEB in November, but the specific dates for the technical hearings by the PTT and the Royal Forestry Department are not known to the public. Sources within the National Environment Board say that PTT officials are very worried about the previous rejection of the project studies by the NEB's experts committee. As a result, the PTT is putting intense pressure on senior officials in the NEB to establish another Experts Committee with members sympathetic to the pipeline project so as to ensure that the project can reach the NEB for approval without further delay.
One of the United States' earliest laws that dates back to 1789, the Alien Tort Claims Act, was originally passed to prevent pirates from setting up a safe haven in the still-young country.
The little-used legislation was ignored for decades. However, in 1980, a U.S. Court awarded over $10 million to the family of a Paraguayan human rights activist who had been tortured by a Paraguayan police inspector who had subsequently moved to the United States. (The $10 million was never collected.) The result has been an avalanche of claims against dozens of U.S. companies operating in countries with less-than-pristine records of respecting human rights.
None have yet made it to trial, but this could soon change. Unocal Corp. was unsuccessful in asking a panel of 11 judges from the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court to dismiss actions launched on behalf of indigenous farmers in Myanmar (Doe I v. Unocal Corp., 00-56603).
Two lawsuits, originally filed in 1996, allege the El Segundo, Cal.-based oil company was complicit in extremely serious crimes, including slavery, murder, and rape, in the country formerly known as Burma.
Originally posted by Beachcoma
Incidentally, the generals keep the bulk of their assets in Singaporean banks, so any move by the US or EU to freeze their assets is merely a symbolic gesture that would hardly put a dent on their personal wealth.