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Burmese generals siphon off about USD 5 billion from sale of gas

Chiang Mai (Mizzima) – In a damning allegation an environment group has said that the junta had siphoned off USD 4801 million from the sale of gas and the funds were kept in two banks in Singapore in utmost secrecy.

The Thailand based ‘Earth Rights International’ (ENI) issued a 101-page report entitled ‘Total Impact: The Human Rights, Environmental and Financial Impacts of Total and Chevron’s Yadana Gas Project in Military-Ruled Burma (Myanmar)’. The military regime manipulated the gas sale figures and the money siphoned off was deposited in two banks in Singapore, -- the Overseas Chinese Banking Corporation (OCBC) and DBS Group, the report said.

The junta earned USD 4.83 billion (Kyat 4560 billion) from the sale of gas from the Yadana Natural Gas Field but the junta showed this figure in their official budget as only USD 29 million, the report also said.

“We dare not post this information if they are not credible and accurate,” ERI spokesman Naing Htoo told Mizzima.

“They did not enter this income from sale of gas in the national income of Burma. We found this fact in their annual report. We found out that this hidden money was deposited in two Singapore banks when verified,” he said.

ERI said that they revealed this information after a two-year long research and by citing ‘credible and reliable source’.

The Yadana Gas field project was started in 1992 by French ‘TOTAL’ and US ‘Chevron’. It was later joined by Thai owned PTT and Myanmar Oil and Gas Corporation.

This controversial gas pipeline project had got caught in an imbroglio but attracted the first and biggest foreign direct investment in Burma.

The human right activists said that there were forced labour, forcible seizure of farmlands and forced relocation along this gas pipeline.

The Burmese Army took responsibility of security and local authorities are still using forced labour for this project, the activists said. But TOTAL denied this allegation and said that there was no more forced labour in this project.

The gas produced from Tanintharyi Division in Burmese offshore was delivered to Thai Ratchaburi Province through this 412 kilometre pipeline.

The Burmese junta calculated the gas income at an impractical official exchange rate of Kyat 6 per dollar in their official national income and budget, the report added.

By calculating at the official exchange rate, the gas income reflected only 1 per cent of total receipts in its 2007-08 Budget. If calculated at the market rate, the gas income will be 57 per cent of total receipts, the report further said.

The junta entered the income from gas in its books as USD 29 million instead of 4.83 billion USD, the report says.

“The consequences of huge gas income and activities of TOTAL and Chevron played a major role in the junta’s stubbornness and encouraged it to be aggressive. Moreover this is one of the major reasons in ineffectiveness of domestic and international pressure put on the junta,” the announcement of ERI says.

“With this money, they can do whatever they want. We think that if Singapore and the international community can freeze this asset which was siphoned off from gas sale, there can be some sort of change in Burma,” Naing Htoo said.

Last Updated ( Friday, 11 September 2009 13:03 )  

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