On September 6, Shwe Gas Movement (SGM) released the report, “Sold Out” detailing the repercussions of both gas and oil pipelines being constructed across Burma and into China. The report highlights how these energy resources will only serve Chinese development as opposed to the energy-starved people of Burma. Furthermore, Burma’s local populations most affected by the pipeline construction are having their human rights abused and they are rarely receiving adequate compensation for the pipeline’s effects on their lives.
A collection of companies from Burma, China, and South Korea (such as Daewoo International, China National Petroleum Corporation, and Myanmar Oil and Gas Enterprises) are working on the pipeline construction. The pipelines will allow for the drilling and transportation of offshore natural gas reserves as well as the transfer of oil from the Middle East and Africa across Burma. According to the report, once the pipeline is operational Burma’s military leaders will earn US $29 billion over the next 30 years.
The pipeline’s construction has already led to numerable human rights abuses, such as:
– Many farmers and families in both Arakan and Shan states have been forced off of their land with inadequate compensation. On Maday and Ramree islands, relatively few locals have been given jobs at the project sites and those who have receive less compensation than originally promised; complaints about lack of compensation for overtime have been fired or otherwise harassed. People living in Arakan State have been forced into building project roads.
-Navy patrols around Maday and Ramree islands have restricted access to fishing grounds, as well as harassed and “taxed” local fishing boats. In December 2010, a sergeant shot dead 26-year-old Ko Maung Wong, reportedly for not stopping his boat when soldiers collecting “taxes” approached him on the water. Moreover, coral reefs have been severely damaged by construction efforts, reducing the amount of habitat available for fish stocks.
– Burmese troops are lining the pipeline corridor, coming into conflict with armed groups and civilians. SGM reports that as militarization increases in an area, so does the amount of forced evictions, forced labor, torture, and sexual violence.
– Female workers at the construction sites receive half as much pay as their male counterparts, and reports of sexual harassment of female workers by both soldiers and male project workers have surfaced. The sex industry has grown in the area of the pipeline project, particularly in Kyauk Phyu on Maday Island.
The good news from SGM’s report is that local Burmese are making demands to the companies and military government. In one case, when the company Myanmar Golden Crown extended workday hours while simultaneously refusing to pay overtime wages, over one hundred workers went on strike. The company eventually reduced the workday hours to the original period. In another case, villagers whose land was confiscated and subsequently sold to Daewoo International are working with lawyers and demanding the land’s return.
In the United States, Americans can contribute to SGM’s goals of ending human rights abuses and environmental degradation by the Shwe Gas Project pipeline construction by spreading information about the project’s repercussions, contacting their pension funds to ask about investment in the Shwe Consortium companies, and visit www.shwe.org for action and event updates.