The SHWE Gas Movement
People of the World
The SHWE Gas Movement
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As documented in our fact-sheet Wasted Resources (see www.shwe.org), an Indo-South Korean consortium, led by Daewoo International, is planning to extract natural gas from the A-1 block off Western Burmas coast together with Burma's military government. In late December 2003, the consortium discovered what it calls a world-class commercial-scale gas deposit, measuring between 4.2-5.8 trillion cubic feet (tcf) of gas. The well, called Shwe-1, is the first discovery out of several expected pockets in the block. According to estimates, between 13-47 tcf are estimated to be found in the deposit as a whole.
The gas block is projected to become Burma's single largest source of foreign income and could well become Southeast Asias single largest gas reserve. Indiscriminatelly exploited, however, the profits reaped from the deposit would only further entrench Burma's military regime that has ruled the country since 1962.
The junta spends over 40\% of its national budget on defense, maintaining the largest per capita military force in the world, despite being one of the world's poorest countries. In comparison, Burma's health and education spending is 0.4\% and 0.5\% respectively, according to the United Nations Development Program.
Despite the fact that the states of Arakan and Chin in Western Burma remain neglected and underdeveloped frontier areas lacking even the most basic energy supplies, the consortium expects to export Shwe gas to Bangladesh and West Bengal in India. For this purpose, a pipeline has been proposed to transport the gas from the offshore fields through Arakan and Chin state via Bangladesh to West Bengal.
The people of Arakan, Chin, and other parts of Burma have no say either in the development of natural resources or in related infrastructure developments such as the pipeline construction. They are jailed for expressing any dissent against the junta. The current military government rules not for life, liberty and the well-being of the people of Burma, but rather for the perpetuation of its own power. The regime has not transferred authority to the duly elected parliamentarians and does not show any sign of doing so in the future.
Based on experience from the Yadana and Yetagun natural gas projects in Southeastern Burma in the 1990s, the current gas project will set back the progress of human rights in Burma as a whole and harm the ecosystems of Western Burma in particular.
This project will further impact already threatened mangrove forests, Arakanese turtles, freshwater river dolphins and other endangered species. The potential environmental impact of this proposed project also threatens the livelihoods of local farmers and fishermen.
Moreover, past Burmese development projects have increased militarization and human rights abuses in the project areas. Before construction on the Yadana/Yetagun pipelines began, the Burmese junta used slave labour to clear a pipeline corridor and its access roads. Communities were forcibly relocated, their lands confiscated, and locals suffered rape, torture and extra-judicial killlings at the hands of the regimes soldiers.
Already early into the Shwe pipeline project, the military has started conscripting forced labour in building new military camps and access roads near the proposed pipeline routes, thus indicating that Shwe will be no different from Yadana and Yetagun. The people of Western Burma are at the hands of the Burmese military and can expect the worst.
We, The SHWE Gas Movement, urge the following:
1. The extraction of the Shwe natural gas deposit must be postponed until a time when the affected people in Western Burma can participate in decisions about the use of their local resources and related infrastructure development without fearing persecution.
2. The international community, including democratic governments and oil corporations, must stop all current business with the military regime, and refrain from further investment until there is a democratically elected government in Burma.
3. The people of India, Bangladesh and the international community should join hands with the people of Burma to oppose the Shwe Gas Project, by signing this petition and partaking in this campaign with us to stop injustice and illegal development in Burma.
The SHWE Gas Movement