Human Rights Abuses at Gas Pipeline

Published on Aug 18 2011 // News Update, Related News

By SAI ZOM HSENG Thursday, August 18, 2011

Land confiscations and other human rights violations have been reported in northern Shan State during the last few weeks since the start of the Shwe pipeline project to export gas and oil to China.

Problems have mainly occurred in Kyaukme and Hsipaw townships where the pipeline passes on its way to Kunming, China. Two other affected areas of northern Shan State are Kutkhai and Pang Hsai townships.

A local resident from Hsipaw Township, who gave his name as Sai Tun, said that although the local authorities did not confiscate his land, they forced him to rent it to them at much lower than the market value. However, he did not know the money actually came from a private company involved in the pipeline project.

“The authorities said that they want to use my land and would give me 500,000 kyats (US $665) for one acre per month as a fee. But they didn’t tell me why they wanted my land and what they are going to do with it,” said Sai Tun.
Sai Tun explained that hiring out land makes the landowner jobless. “Other landowners from my village also face the same situation as me but with different rental fees. But 500,000 kyats is the minimum price that they gave us,” he added.

“I don’t think the price is enough for our land because I have seen that they are digging everywhere. When they return my land back, what am I supposed to do with that destroyed land?” asked Sai Tun.

He explained that the pipeline passes five or six miles away from Hsipaw, and that there are at least a dozen landowners who have been forced by the authorities to rent their land.

The Asia World Co. Ltd.—owned by Steven Law (aka Tun Myint Naing)—is the main constructor of the pipeline projects in northern Shan State. Htoo Trading Co. Ltd.—owned by Burmese business tycoon Tay Za who has close links to former junta members—is also approaching Burmese leaders to obtain pipeline building projects.

The Memorandum of Understanding of the Shwe Gas Project was signed by the former military regime’s second leader, Vice Sen-Gen Maung Aye, during a trip to China in 2009 where he met Chinese Vice-President Xi Jingping. China is the only nation currently buying natural gas from Burma, netting the Burmese government at least US $1 billion per year.

The former Burmese regime has not only agreed to sell China natural gas, but also to build a transit oil pipeline to move fuel from the Middle East to China through the Southeast Asian nation.

Thailand-based Shwe Gas Movement (SGM)—a pressure group opposed to the Burmese government’s Shwe Gas project—said that Burma will get at least $30 million every year from over 4,000 kms of transit oil pipeline.

Wong Aung, a global coordinator of SGM, told The Irrawaddy on Wednesday: “This project will negatively affect local people living near to the pipeline site. They will face human rights violations including losing their jobs and land.

“This project is very important for China in political, military and economic fields, and so it always protects the Burmese government in the international community. That’s why the Burmese government cannot refuse what China desires.”

He added that the pipeline could even cause a civil war because it would go through ethnic areas, and could cause even more human rights violations such as land confiscation, forced labor and illegal detentions.

The Shan State Army (SSA) is currently operating in Kyaukme and Hsipaw townships. SSA spokesman Maj Sai Hla said that they have no plans to start attacking the pipeline project, but would do if they think it has been harming local people and the Shan community.

News: Irrawaddy