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Another Snake in the Jungle

Another Snake in the Jungle



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Published by: xzqpxz on Feb 11, 2009
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Watershed Vol. 11 No. 1 July – October 2005
Page 31
By Matthew Smith & Naing HtooIn 1996-98 the Yadana-Yetagun pipelines wereconstructed in the Tenasserim region of Burma by twolarge multinational oil companies in partnership withBurma’s illegitimate military government. Theconstruction of these pipelines resulted in severehuman rights abuses and environmentaldegradation, including the forced anduncompensated relocation of thousands of local villagers.Currently, the preconditions forsimilar human rights violations andenvironmental destruction are inplace as an international consortiumnegotiates the Shwe gas project,which involves a proposed gaspipeline that will carry gas throughArakan and Chin States in Burma,and through Bangladesh forconsumption in India. Matthew Smithand Naing Htoo explain how the Shweproject would further degrade theenvironment and violate humanrights, whilst generating morerevenues for Burma’s military junta,posing a long-term threat to Burmaand the region.
Matthew Smith
is a Project Coordinator for EarthRights International’s Burma Project. He has a MA from Columbia University andfocuses on mining and pipeline issues.
Naing Htoo
is the Programme Coordinator for EarthRights International’s Burma Project. He has worked with ERI since 1998coordinating documentation on human rights abuses, particularly surrounding development projects in Burma.
EarthRights International (ERI)
is a non-profit, nongovernmental organisation (NGO) that combines the power of law and thepower of people in defence of human rights and the environment. ERI is based in Washington, DC and Thailand, and can bereached at infoasia@earthrights.org. See ERI on the web at www.earthrights.org
   E  a  r   t   h   R   i  g   h   t  s   I  n   t  e  r  n  a   t   i  o  n  a   l
Page 32
Watershed Vol. 11 No. 1 July – October 2005
urma, re-named Myanmar bythe country’s ruling militarygenerals after a 1988 coup, isa place where some of the world’s worst social,political, and economicproblems converge: au-thoritarianism, system-atic human rights viola-tions, environmental de-struction, civil war andcomplicated ethnic poli-tics, severe poverty andpoor public health, lack of education, and others.These problems andtheir various ill effectsare often viewed withinthe context of the mili-tary dictatorship that is largely respon-sible for them, but the people of Burmahave more to fear than the repressivemilitary government ruling over them.They must also fear its partners.Major multinational companiesand regional governments are poisedto invest in Burma, and Burma makesit easy for them to do so. Currently, aninternational consortium comprisingprivate and state-owned companiesfrom South Korea and India are nego-tiating with Burma’s military govern-ment around the Shwe gas project, alarge-scale gas development projectunfolding in western Burma. Thisproject will most likely result in the con-struction of a gas pipeline which willcarry natural gas from the Bay of Ben-gal, through Arakan and Chin Statesin Burma, and through Bangladesh forconsumption in India. This interna-tionally financed pipeline project willbe doubly devastating for the peopleof Burma, especially those of Arakanand Chin States. Firstly, the projectthreatens the basic human rights of those in affected regions: the
(military) will almost cer-tainly forcibly relocate entire villages,use local forced labour on the pipe-line and its supporting infrastructure,and introduce violence such as rape,torture, and murder to local communi-ties.
Secondly, in as much as the Shweproject is potentially the largest sourceof revenue for the military governmentof Burma, it poses a long-term threatto those living under Burma’s militaryrule, to say nothing of the threat thatcontinued military rule poses to re-gional peace and security.
Moreover,the Shwe gas project stands to causesevere environmental degradation anddestruction, upsettingvital and fragile ecosys-tems, threatening manyspecies unique to theregion, and contaminat-ing local waters. Forthese reasons and oth-ers the Shwe gasproject must stop imme-diately.Situated betweengiants India and China,Burma is a geo-politicalhotbed where naturalresources, in this caseconflict resources,abound. Since 1988 total foreign in-vestment in Burma is estimated atUS$7.646 billion. Of that amount theoil and natural gas sectors are Bur-ma’s largest area of foreign investment,accounting for US$2.494 billion since1988, or roughly 33 per cent of all for-eign investment since 1988.
Thisamount is on a sharp rise due largelyto market demands caused by the un-precedented industrial growth of In-dia, China, and Thailand over recentyears.The military junta’s demonstratedinterest is in continued rule, and con-tinued rule requires continued rev-enue, so by default the junta’s primaryinterest is in generating more directforeign investment, at any cost. Just
The proposed Shwe gas pipeline and Blocks A-1 and A-3 To me I don’t think the pipeline will be a benefit.The people will suffer more because of this.It already happened and I think it will continue.
Local trader in Arakan State, Burma,commenting on the proposed Shwe gas pipeline.
“ ” 
EarthRights International
Watershed Vol. 11 No. 1 July – October 2005
Page 33
three months after the military’s 1988bloody crackdown on the nationwidepro-democracy uprising that left thou-sands of peaceful protestors dead inthe streets of Burma, the State Peaceand Development Council (SPDC),then dubiously called the State Lawand Order Restoration Council(SLORC), passed Law #10/88. This lawofficially opened Burma’s previouslyclosed economic doors to foreign in-vestment in order to promote “devel-opment of national economy,” as themilitary junta phrased it.
This so-called economic development policyenables the junta to control the flowof direct foreign investment cominginto Burma, and shareholding capac-ity has been conveniently reserved forthe military and their families.
Thepeople of Burma, and especially thoseof Arakan and Chin States who are inthe direct path of the proposed pipe-line project, simply can not benefitfrom the Shwe project, or any large-scale development projects, until thereis a sound, democratically elected ci-vilian government in Burma.
Background on the Shwe gasproject
The Shwe gas project is in its initialstages, but there is already reason forgrave concern. In August 2000, theSouth Korean based companyDaewoo International became con-tractual partners with the Myanmar Oiland Gas Enterprise (MOGE), a subsidi-ary of the military government of Burma. This contract gave Daewoothe rights to explore and potentiallydevelop gas deposits in the A-1 andA-3 offshore blocks, located just off Burma’s Arakan coast in the Bay of Bengal (see map). Four years later, inearly 2004, Daewoo announced thatthey had discovered a “world classcommercial scale gas deposit” valuedat US$19-26 billion. Daewoo has sinceconfirmed that the A-1 gas depositalone is now estimated to contain ap-proximately 18 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, increasing its potentialvalue to a staggering US$70-78 billion.Production is expected to begin in 2010and the deposit has an estimated life-time of 20 years. This gas deposit isone of the largest in the world and, asmentioned, is potentially the most lu-crative and sustained source of rev-enue for Burma’s military government.Estimates vary, but it has been re-ported that at least 40 per cent of Bur-ma’s national budget is dedicated tomilitary expenditures, while health andeducation represent a reprehensible0.4 per cent and 0.5 per cent of theGDP, respectively; the lowest in theworld.
Shwe gas profits will supportthis violent political-military institu-tion. The generals in Rangoon aptlynamed the newly discovered gas fieldsShwe, meaning “gold” in Burmese.The Shwe gas consortium that willdevelop the massive gas depositformed relatively quickly, havingbeen approved by the military junta
 © All Arakan Student and Youth Congress (AASYC)

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