The Shwe Gas Movement, a Thai “oil and gas watchdog,”, released a report on Monday titled Corridor of Power: China’s Trans-Burma Oil and Gas Pipelines. The report addresses the humanitarian repercussions of China’s oil and gas pipeline projects throughout Burma. Burma, according to the report, ranks tenth on the list of global natural gas reserves, but lacks the infrastructural capacity to extract these reserves for national usage.
The Shwe Gas and Trans-Burma Oil Corridor projects began in August 2000, when the South Korean corporation Daewoo International signed an exploration contract with the Myanmar Oil and Gas Enterprise (MOGE). In February 2004, a month after discovering an offshore natural gas block, Daewoo purchased a neighboring block. Daewoo’s 2004 purchase spurred a wave of sales to Asian oil and gas corporations, the most recent being the sale of natural gas access to the China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC). Construction of the oil and gas pipelines, which are planned to run adjacent to one another, will begin this month. The Burmese military junta’s share of revenues from natural gas sales is estimated to reach at least $29 billion over the next 30 years.
Past Burma pipeline projects, largely located in eastern Burma, have caused mass humanitarian crises. The humanitarian impact of the Burma-China pipeline, however, is expected to be much more severe. Forced labor, forced relocation, the mobilization of troops into ethnic minority areas, and extortion of civilian resources are anticipated repercussions of the Shwe Gas pipeline project. As the Shwe Gas Movement noted in its report, “[i]ncidents of increased deployment of troops for infrastructure projects are well-documented in Burma. Past and present experiences show that when militarization has occurred alongside securing extractive investments in Burma, local people are subject to abuses by the Burma army such as forced labour, sexual assault, forced relocation, and land confiscation.” The pipeline, which travels through the recently ravaged Shan State, represents an imminent danger for the security of Burmese civilians.
In a similar vein, EarthRights International, an environmental non-profit organization, has released two report condemning energy firms Chevron and Total for their tacit support of the Burmese regime’s human rights violations. Total and Chevron operate the Yadana gas pipeline, which runs across Burma from the Andaman Sea to Thailand. In a striking demonstration of corporate irresponsibility, Total and Chevron’s pipeline project has resulted in well-documented occurrences of land confiscation, forced labor, and forced relocation. The Burmese regime’s increased militarization of pipeline zones has additionally resulted in increased instances of rape, torture, extrajudicial killings, and other human rights abuses. Total has dismissed EarthRights International’s condemnation. The French energy firm’s chief executive recently stated that “[L]eaving will not make human rights more respected…If this gas was not produced by Total, it would be by others, and it would change nothing to the revenues of the junta.” Urgent action is needed to halt the human rights abuses associated with the two oil and gas pipelines.
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–Daniel Solomon, National Burma Education Coordinator