Govt Accused of Ongoing Abuses at Shwe Pipeline

By Charlie Campbell 7 November 2012

A catalogue of ongoing human rights abuses have been documented along the path of the Chinese-backed Shwe Gas and Oil Pipeline which transects Burma, according to a new report.

“Pipeline Nightmare,” released by The Ta’ang Students and Youth Organization (TSYO) on Wednesday morning, illustrates how the project has resulted in the confiscation of land, forced labor and an increased military presence affecting thousands of people.

Moreover, the report documents human rights violations in six target cities and 51 villages committed by the Burma Army, police and militias taking responsibility for security during construction.

“Even though the international community believes that the government has implemented political reforms, it doesn’t mean those reforms have reached ethnic areas, especially not where there is increased militarization along the Shwe Pipeline, increased fighting between the Burmese Army and ethnic armed groups, and negative consequences for the people living in these areas,” said Mai Amm Ngeal, a member of TSYO.

Once completed, the project will transport oil and gas across from the Bay of Bengal in western Burma’s Arakan (Rakhine) State to China’s southwestern Yunnan Province across the border from Shan State. Sources close to the project suggest it could be completed as early as next May.

The government has deployed additional soldiers and extended 26 military camps in order to increase pressure on ethnic armed groups and provide security for the pipeline project and its Chinese workers, claims the report.

Last month, an alliance of 12 civil society groups in Burma called for the suspension of the Shwe Gas pipelines until the project had been properly assessed and existing problems solved.

Tin Thit, a spokesman for the Myanmar-China Pipeline Watch Committee, told The Irrawaddy that “there needs to be a solution to the environmental and social problems. Therefore, we urge the authorities to suspend the project until these issues are solved.

“Double the amount of land has been used to accommodate the pipelines than the contractors promised the landowners who, in turn, have received less compensation than they should expect.”

The Shwe Gas project is a joint venture between China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) and the former junta-linked Myanmar Oil & Gas Enterprise (MOGE). The oil and gas pipelines pass through 21 townships as they span 800 km (500 miles) across the country.

Local sources report daily fighting along the pipeline route between government troops and the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), Shan State Army–North and Ta’ang National Liberation Army in Namtu, Mantong and Namkham, where there are more than 1,000 Ta’ang (Palaung) refugees.

Wong Aung, the coordinator at the Shwe Gas Movement, told The Irrawaddy on Wednesday that the TSYO report is consistent with earlier research conducted by his group regarding clashes between the Burmese military and ethnic people.

“Especially with the KIA, the ongoing conflict is driving people from the construction,” he said. “The TSYO report is important as there has been a lot of positive developments inside the country and interest from foreign investment yet the ongoing crisis with the pipeline is directly related to foreign investment. There are clashes as they lack a proper investment mechanisms and legal framework.”

Although CNPC and MOGE have signed agreements for the Shwe Pipeline, TSYO claims neither company has conducted any Environmental Impact Assessments or Social Impact Assessments while the Burmese central government is set to earn an estimated US $29 billion from the project over the next three decades.

“The government and companies involved must be held accountable for the project and its effects on the local people, such as increasing military presence and Chinese workers along the pipeline, both of which cause insecurity for the local communities and especially women. The project has no benefit for the public, so it must be postponed,” said Lway Phoo Reang, Joint Secretary (1) of TSYO.

The TSYO report urges President Thein Sein’s administration to postpone the Shwe Gas and Oil Pipeline project, withdraw the military from Shan State, reach a ceasefire with all local ethnic armed groups and address the root causes of the armed conflict by engaging in political dialogue.