Saturday May 18, 2013
World's Media Focuses on Burma and U.S. Potential for Oil ExploitationSubmitted by Muthamizh Vendhan for Salem-News.com
As Burma’s military junta cracks down on pro-democracy protests, oil companies jostle for access to the country’s largely untapped natural resources.
(CHENNAI, India) - Our frequent contact and occasional contributor in Chennai has rounded up an excellent collection of stories that bring us up to date and big developments in Burma, relating to the possible large-scale exploitation of long-hidden natural resources.
Burma, or Myanmar as it was renamed in recent years, is a nation with a terrible human rights record, controlled for decades by a fierce military junta that has kept its rightful leader under house arrest for many years.
But all is not always as it seems, ties with the U.S. and Burma are strong and many Human Rights activists, like our own William Gomes, have heavily criticized the idea of providing money to this country without first assuring that it meets international obligations by adhering to even some part of the existing international law.
Aung San Suu Ki recently met with Hillary Clinton in Burma and hearts are sinking quickly over deals that are underway and being cut between the U.S. and Burma, and also India and China. the race is on and the serious human rights issues relating to Burma's military junta are not a matter of the past.
This is fueling concerns of environmentalists and leading some to speculate that Burma could become the next American war theatre. It is a lot to take in, special thanks to Muthamizh Vendhan for another excellent roundup of information.
MYANMAR (BURMA), THE NEXT U.S. WAR…
While Burma’s military junta cracks down on pro-democracy protests, oil companies are busy jostling for access to the country’s largely untapped natural gas and oil fields.
Just last Sunday – as marches led by Buddhist monks drew thousands in the country’s biggest cities – Indian Oil Minister Murli Deora was in Burma’s capital Rangoon for the signing of contracts between state-controlled ONGC Videsh Ltd and Burma’s military rulers to explore three offshore blocks.
Companies from China, South Korea, Thailand and elsewhere are also looking to exploit the energy resources of the desperately poor Southeast Asian country.
What stigma? Burma (Myanmar) draws energy-hungry neighbors
Six months ago, a construction crew showed up in this sleepy Burmese backwater. Villagers watched the crew put down a black pipeline under their rice fields, on its way north to power-hungry Rangoon (Yangon), the old capital.
The pipeline opened June 12 to acclaim in Burma’s largest city, where households are lucky to get six hours of electricity a day. For villagers living on the pipeline route, the benefits are less clear. At a local store, the only power comes from an old car battery hooked up to a single bulb. Nobody has electricity at home. “The gas is not for us,” says a farmer.
Chinese Energy Infrastructure in Myanmar
China has also spent heavily in Myanmar developing offshore oil and gas fields in the Bay of Bengal, as well as connecting pipelines to China. This was part of a larger overall investment in Myanmar’s security, transportation, and industrial development, a project that begun shortly after the U.S. invasion of Iraq. Myanmar, with its long, tentacled coastline and large natural resource base, served as a Chinese counterpoint to the U.S. presence in Iraq. As it was put by F. William Engdahl:
Beijing poured billions of dollars of military assistance into Myanmar, including fighter and transport aircraft, tanks and armored personnel carriers, naval vessels and surface to air missiles. China built up Myanmar’s railroads and roads, and won permission to station its troops in Myanmar. China, according to Indian Defense sources, also built a large electronic surveillance facility on Myanmar’s Coco Island and was building Naval bases for access to the Indian Ocean.
Religious and Racial Strife in Western Burma
Although Burma (Myanmar) has seen substantial reform over the past few months, several deeply entrenched conflicts create major obstacles for the country’s transition. According to The Irrawaddy, tensions in the western Arakan region recently exploded into violence when “300 people stopped a bus carrying Muslims from a religious gathering, dragged out the 10 occupants, beat them to death and burned the vehicle in Taunggup…” The attack occurred in retaliation for the alleged rape and murder of a Buddhist girl by three Muslim youths.
Burmese Muslim leaders were incensed not only by the actions of the mob, but also by the descriptions of the incident carried by the state-run media. In several report, the victims of the bus attack were referred to as “Kalars,” a pejorative Burmese term used for foreigners, especially those of South Asian extraction. Democracy advocates in Burma are also upset by the use of the term, which was quickly denounced by leaders of the 88 Generation Students group.
Most of the Muslims of Arakan are Rohingyas, a people of South Asian origin who speak a language closely related to Bengali. The Rohingyas of Burma have been victims of discrimination and worse for some time; a recent Times of India article describes them as “among the world’s most persecuted people,” noting that in the early 1970s they were stripped of their nationality and more than 200,000 were forced out of the country. Most of those displaced from Burma have been languishing in dismal camps in Bangladesh ever since, although many have sought refuge, often unsuccessfully, elsewhere. In 2011, however, the Burmese government agreed to begin repatriating Rohingya refugees.
Burma-Myanmar: Competition for gas, oil, and pipeline rights is behind various nations’ interest
The connection is clear: the Bush conception of “human rights” means “oil and gas”. Bush also claimed at the UN that Lebanon, Afghanistan and Iraq had “asked for our help”. Given the precedents, even the isolated people in Myanmar should be afraid, very afraid. …
India coddles the generals to get natural-gas deals – like a recent agreement to invest US$150 million in gas exploitation in the west of the country. India recently transferred naval surveillance aircraft and anti-aircraft guns to Burma-Myanmar.
Norway ups Burma oil investments
Figures released last week by the Norwegian government show that investments in oil and gas companies operating in Burma stand at close to $US5 billion, despite heavy opposition from rights groups.
The new sum marks an increase of around $US300 million on last year’s figures. The state-owned investment body, the Norwegian Pension Fund, holds shares in 15 energy companies in Burma, a position that the campaign group Norwegian Burma Committee this week criticised as “double morale”.
The US Prepares To Open Up One Of The Most Exciting Untapped Energy Troves In The World
U.S. secretary of state Hilary Clinton has reportedly said that the U.S. is prepared to move send a ‘full ambassador’ to Myanmar, and establish a US aid office in the country, according to Reuters.
The U.S. will also begin the process of easing away sanctions that have so far banned exports of U.S. financial services and investment to Myanmar in response to its democratic transition.
This comes after Aung San Suu Kyi and her National League for Democracy party won a landslide victory in parliamentary by-elections.
The easing of sanctions has massive implications for the U.S. since Myanmar is a country rich in resources from oil and gas to teak.
Jubilant Energy to Invest $80 million in Myanmar Oil, Gas Block
Jubilant Energy plans to invest about to $80 million on an onshore oil and gas block in Myanmar, media reports said Tuesday.
Myanmar recently awarded 10 onshore oil and gas blocks.
“We had bid for two blocks. They have offered us one, but we are keen for both. We are still negotiating,” Chief Financial Officer Vipul Agarwal told Reuters.
Burma’s oil and natural gas sectors eyed by Malaysia
Chiang Mai (Mizzima) – Malaysian companies are preparing to invest more in Burma’s inland oil and natural gas blocks.
Nineteen Malaysian companies and Burmese businessmen will discuss investment opportunities on Tuesday at the Union of Myanmar Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry (UMFCCI) office in Rangoon.
In mid-July, foreign energy companies were invited to bid for permits for exploratory rights for oil and natural gas on 18 inland blocks along the Irrawaddy River. A total of 52 companies including the 19 Malaysian companies applied for permits through their embassies.
Burma’s Frontier Appeal Lures Shadowy Oil Firms
While the major non-American Western oil companies adopt and wait-and-see policy and US firms remain barred by Washington’s sanctions, shadowy oil enterprises are gaining footholds in Burma.
Among firms which have recently won licenses to explore for oil and gas are little-known businesses based in Panama, Nigeria and Azerbaijan—countries where corporate accountability can be murky.
Not only does the bidding process remain opaque, the pedigree of some of the participants is too.
CIS Nobel Oil Company claims to be London based, but on investigation its only contact address is in Baku, capital of Azerbaijan, a former republic of the Soviet Union on the Caspian Sea.
Over 10 Activists for 24-Hour Electricity in Arakan State Detained
Sittwe: Over ten campaigners for 24-hour electricity in Arakan State have been detained in Sittwe by police since yesterday for interrogation about their activities for the campaign, said one activists who evaded detention.
Among the ten detained are both men and women, who were coordinating to carry out the electricity campaign in Sittwe, the capital of Arakan, on the occasion of Burmese National Day yesterday.
“A daughter and granddaughter, who is Ma Wa Wa Khaing, of prominent politician U San Shwe Oo (Kwe Baluu) are among those arrested. We do not know about other detainees or their current whereabouts since the arrest,” the source said.
Burma ranks tenth in the world in terms of natural gas reserve and is rich in other natural resources such as timber, minerals, and gems. The military junta ruling the Burma has accordingly become very adept at “resource diplomacy,” auctioning off the country’s natural resources to its neighbours and powerful world players alike in exchange for revenue and political support.
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