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Don't buy gas from Myanmar: NLD

From The Hindustan Times, India
October 6, 2005
link to this article.

Pro-democracy activists from Myanmar Thursday urged India not to do business with the military junta in that country, saying the purchase of oil and natural gas from the Arakan region will only make the military rich.

A tri-nation gas pipeline deal is expected to get India a hefty chunk of Myanmar's 9.9 billion cubic metres of gas and seven million barrels of crude, which is expected to bring $655 million annually to the coffers of the ruling junta in Myanmar.

In 2004, the oil and gas sector in Myanmar received the largest FDI, worth about $3 billion.

"Oil hungry neighbours - China and India - competing for Myanmar's resources are the biggest supporters of the military junta," activists from Myanmar's main opposition party, the National League for Democracy (NLD), said in Chennai.

The tri-nation project envisages getting natural gas from the Kaladan river basin in the Arakan region through a pipeline to the northeastern state of Mizoram into the Brahmanberia area of Bangladesh.

From there it will reach Rajshahi in Bangladesh and finally into West Bengal.

"The project will showcase a peak in India's bilateral relations with Yangon's military rulers," NLD foreign affairs spokesperson in India Ram Jeet Verma said.

Ethnic Mon rights activist from the Human Rights Foundation of Monland, Nai Kasauh Mon said: "To get this pipeline, ethnic civilians living near gas reserves in south Burma are being moved out of the proposed rout by thousands of military men".

More and more refugees from Arakan are flooding into Bangladesh and Thailand as the "Myanmar army confiscates farmlands from the ethnic people, terrorising women and children", the NLD umbrella group said.

It included activists from the Shwe Gas Movement that operates in Bangladesh and Thailand border areas, the Arakan National Council, EarthRights International, the Korea House for International Solidarity and the Women's League of Burma (WLB).

"The National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government in India even sold arms to the military junta and the present government in the world's biggest democracy is maintaining a defence and diplomatic status quo, which we find very hard to understand", said Verma.

"There is a great contradiction when the government of India says it supports the movement for democracy in Myanmar and at the same time continues to sell arms to the military and trade in oil and gas with the junta," he said.

"We expect India to call for a regime change, at least support us in the United Nations forums and vote against the military regime," the activists said.

"Why is India silent and not advocating actively to free Aung San Suu Kyi", said WLB's senior leader Thin Thin Aung.

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