Burmese Workers Get Lengthy Jail Terms for Pipeline Clash

By Lawi Weng 8 September 2014

RANGOON — A court in Arakan State sentenced 17 Burmese workers to between six and 10 years each in prison on Sunday for destroying property and attacking Chinese workers on a cross-Burma oil pipeline project.

Fighting broke out in January between ethnic Chin workers and Chinese nationals working on the China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) project in Ann Township, close to where the pipeline meets the Bay of Bengal.

The workers’ lawyer, Aye Kyaw Than, told The Irrawaddy that the 17 were convicted under Penal Code articles 425, 436 and 114, for trespassing, arson and damaging property, and assault.

Charges were brought at the Ann Township Court after a complaint by the Myanmar Oil and Gas Enterprise, the Burmese government company in a joint venture with CNPC—a Chinese state-owned enterprise.

“Three of them were sentenced to 10 years and the other 14 were sentenced six years in prison each,” said Aye Kyaw Than, who added that he will appeal to try to have the sentences reduced.

In the Jan. 26 incident, ethnic Chin workers got into a dispute with their Chinese colleagues who lived in the upstairs part of shared living quarters. About 150 Chin and 80 Chinese were working on the project at the site in Taung Sauk village

The Chin workers reportedly claimed that liquid, possibly urine, was poured on them from above. In the riot that followed, a CNPC building and an oil container on the site were set on fire

A police officer in Ann Township said that the Chinese workers involved were not charged because they did not take part in the destruction of property.

“The conflict first started between Burmese workers and Chinese workers. But the Chinese workers did not react, while the Burmese workers tried to destroy offices and buildings,” said the police officer, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

“I don’t mean we did not take action against the Chinese workers. The company sent those workers back to their country already.”

While the oil pipeline is still under construction, CNPC has already completed and begun operating a parallel natural gas pipeline from Kyaukphyu, Arakan State, to China’s Yunnan Province.

Khin Oo Thar contributed reporting.