Shwe Pipeline Explosions Highlight Safety Concerns

By Nyein Nyein 9 April 2013

A controversial Chinese pipeline in Burma came under scrutiny on Tuesday, as activists decried two recent explosions at the project that threatened the safety of local residents.

The explosions occurred during safety checks late last month at the Shwe gas pipeline in Shan State, in east Burma, according to a minority ethnic group documenting human rights abuses under the project.

In a press conference in Rangoon on Tuesday, the Taang Students and Youth Organization (TSYO) said the pipeline exposed local residents to danger.

“While they were cleaning the pipeline, there were explosions in Nanhkan and Namtu townships,” said Mai Eike Mon, coordinator of the TSYO’s department on information and human rights documentation, referring to townships in the northern part of the state. “This shows the pipeline isn’t safe.”

The activist group has documented rights abuses in six townships in Shan State— including Kyauk Hse, Hsipaw, Nawnghkio, Nanhkan, Namtu and Manton townships—which have been affected by the project.

The pipeline, which runs from Kyauk Phyu port in Burma’s westernmost Arakan State to Yunnan Province in China, across the border from Shan State, has been under construction and is expected to start distributing gas in June.

Speaking to The Irrawaddy after the press conference, Mai Eike Mon said authorities had not yet provided compensation to many residents displaced by the project.

Less than two-thirds of local residents have received compensation for their land, and most of them were migrants from cities, he said.

He urged authorities to consult with the public and to study the environmental impact of the pipeline.

Residents have also faced restrictions in movement, he added, as soldiers have been deployed to safeguard the pipeline.

“The locals in project areas aren’t permitted to trespass,” he said, adding that the military had set up camps along roads.

The activist group said the Shwe gas project had especially threatened the safety of local women, who face harassment not only from local authorities but also from Chinese pipeline workers.

The Shwe gas project, a joint venture between China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) and the former junta-linked Myanmar Oil and Gas Enterprise (MOGE), passes through more than 20 townships across the country.