Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Oil Companies Complicit in Burma Right Abuses: ERI

A report released on Tuesday by EarthRights International (ERI) claims that the multinational oil companies involved in the Sino-Burmese oil and gas pipeline project are complicit in land confiscation, forced labor, arbitrary arrest and detention, as well as various violations of indigenous rights of the ethnic minorities in the affected regions.

The pipelines will bring 12 million tons of crude oil per year and 12 billion cubic meters of natural gas to China. (Image: Reuters)

“The contracts between the foreign companies and the Burmese state-owned company MOGE specify that the Burmese Army will provide security for the projects,” said Paul Donowitz, the campaign director of US-based ERI and co-author of the new report titled, “The Burma-China Pipelines: Human Rights Violations, Applicable Law, and Revenue Secrecy.

“There are at least 28 army battalions already stationed along the pipeline route, and ERI is deeply concerned that the project will inevitably lead to more serious human right abuses against local population,” he said.

According to the report: “The companies are on notice that if such abuses do occur, they will be complicit. The French oil giant Total and the American oil major Unocal (Chevron) ignored warnings about their projects in Burma. As a result, local people suffered terrible [harm] and the companies were forced to compensate local victims of human rights abuse while their international reputations suffered greatly. We hope the Chinese, Korean, and Indian companies learn a lesson and postpone their projects.”
Asked about any possible legal action against the companies involved in the pipeline construction, Matthew Smith, a senior consultant with ERI and a co-author of the report, said, “There is no legal action plan currently being undertaken, but it is not outside the realms of possibility that these companies will be legally accountable in the future.”

The March 29 report highlighted that the most common human rights violations to date due to the pipeline construction have been “land confiscation, inadequate compensation, [and] a lack of … informed consent of the local people.”

ERI noted, however, that it still hasn't conducted an overall social impact assessment along the pipeline.

“There are significant populations affected by the project,” said Smith. “But we don't have any specific assessment figure of the overall population because there is no transparency on the part of the companies involved in the project nor from the Burmese government.”

Regarding the aims of the report, Smith said, “The primary goal is to prevent negative impacts from the project, and to raise awareness among the investors who will eventually be accountable for the abuses.”

Asked whether he thought the multinational companies will take action after reading the ERI report, Smith said, “In some way, we hope that the companies will make attempts to maintain their international reputation because they are aware of the negative impacts happening [in the projects].”

According to ERI, Daewoo International of South Korea is currently the main investor in the pipeline, possessing a 51 percent share in the offshore Shwe Gas fields in the Bay of Bengal, while China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) is the main investor and operator on the onshore gas pipeline construction, possessing a 51 percent share.

Other oil companies involved in the project are: Korea Gas Corporation (KOGAS); onGC Videsh; the Gas Authority of India (GAIL); and Burma's state-owned Myanmar Oil and Gas Enterprise (MOGE).

Last year, the China Development Bank Cooperation signed a contract with the Burmese junta for a loan of US $2.4 billion to construct the dual oil and gas pipelines, which will be able to carry 12 million tons of crude oil per year and 12 billion cubic meters of natural gas to China through pipelines more than 1,000 kilometers in length, from Kyaukpyu on Ramree Island in Arakan State to Kunming, the capital of China's Yunnan Province.

Post a Comment