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Junta, China fleece Burmese populace: Campaigners

New Delhi (Mizzima)- If China is protecting the Burmese military junta, calling Burma’s problems “its internal affair” and blocking a United Nations Security Council resolution, it is because China is making a two-way profit in its deals with the generals, campaigners said.

According to a new report released by campaigners, China is all set to begin construction of a dual gas and oil pipeline that will connect China’s Northwestern Province of Yunnan with Burma’s western coast of Kyuak Phyu in Arakan State.

The pipeline will transfer gas from the offshore Shwe gas fields in western Arakan state. Besides, it will also be used to transfer oil shipped from the Middle East and Africa.

“This will help China immensely as most of its oil imports are from the Middle East and Africa,” Wong Aung, spokesperson of the Shwe Gas Movement, a coalition of campaigners based in Thailand said.

The Shwe Gas Movement on Monday released a new report titled ‘Corridor of Power’ detailing the planned pipeline project, which will also be used to transfer natural gas extracted from the Shwe Gas Fields in Burma, which is estimated to be one of the largest natural gas reserves in Southeast Asia.

The nearly 4,000 km pipeline, construction for which is set to begin this month, will provide China access to the Bay of Bengal, a strategic advantage in its attempts to control the Indian Ocean.

But in order to beat India in its pursuit for gas from Burma, China has to exercise its veto power in the United Nations Security Council. In January 2007 it blocked a resolution, when the US, UK and France proposed a resolution aimed at condemning the Burmese generals.

Besides, the Burmese generals will earn at least US $ 29 billion over 30 years from the sale of natural gas to China.

“The contract will mean that China will provide more arms and military hardware to the Burmese regime and would do anything to protect the Burmese generals to remain in power,” Wong Aung said.

According to EarthRights International, a non-governmental organisation advocating human and environmental rights, there are over 40 Chinese companies investing in more than 200 projects including oil and gas exploration, mining and hydroelectricity projects.

China values its business involvements and wants to see Burma stable in order to allow it to engage further with the country, Wong Aung said.

“It is like tunnelling Burma’s resources to China,” Wong Aung said, referring to the imbalance in returns of Chinese companies investing in Burma.

While bilateral relations between countries should be based on mutual interest and benefits, the Sino-Burmese relationship is typically one-sided where the benefit goes to the Chinese and the Burmese generals, while the Burmese people make sacrifices and bear the consequences, Wong Aung said.

As a measure of security, at least 44 military battalions have been stationed along the planned dual pipelines that will cross the western coast of Arakan State to North-eastern Shan State of Burma.

“Once the pipeline construction begins, I think there will be more soldiers stationed along the pipelines,” Wong Aung added.

The report by the Shwe Gas Movement said, the increased militarisation along the pipeline has caused severe human rights violations committed by the soldiers including raping ethnic women, relocating villages, forced labour and extra-judicial killings.

“There are 22 towns and cities along the pipeline and these will have to be removed. So, the rights abuses will increase,” Wong Aung added.

While China, which needs large quantities of energy to fuel its developing economy, might feel it is a fair bargain to give the Burmese generals the protection and to supply the money they need, the people of Burma, who are rightfully the owners of the natural resources are bearing the consequences, Wong Aung said.

Calling for the immediate suspension of the project, the report said that China would be in a better position to trade with Burma under a stable government. It also argues that the current military rulers’ political roadmap does not aim at bringing peace and political stability to the country.

The recent fighting in north-eastern Shan State between the Burmese Army and Kokang rebels is only the tip of the iceberg and indicates that there will be further unrest along the border as well as in other parts of the country, Wong Aung said.

“With such instability, China should rethink its position and reconsider its plan to construct the pipelines,” he added.

Last Updated ( Tuesday, 08 September 2009 20:45 )  

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