China denounced by anti-pipeline protesters

Oct 29, 2009 (DVB), Protesters yesterday expressed "grave concern" about China's multi-billion dollar gas and oil pipeline project in Burma that they claim poses serious risks both to Burmese citizens and regional security.

The pipeline project also poses "financial and image risks to China, [and] we are calling for the project to be suspended unless these risks can be mitigated", said the Shwe Gas Movement (SGM) in an open letter to the Chinese government.

The letter was accompanied by protests yesterday outside the Chinese consulate in Thailand's northern town of Chiang Mai.

"The ongoing Shwe Gas project and other gas pipelines are strategic projects for the [Burmese] and the Chinese government," said Win Aung, international coordinator for SGM.

"We need to think of possible negative effects and a conflict between the two countries that will emerge from the projects. That's why are calling on the Chinese government to stop."

The 980-kilometer pipelines will run across the breadth of Burma, from its western shore on the Bay of Bengal to China's southern Yunnan province.

The project will give China access to Burma's vast offshore gas reserves as well as oil shipped over from the Middle East.

The China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC), which holds a 50 percent stake in the project in partnership with the Myanmar Oil and Gas Enterprise (MOGE), will manage the operation.

"Based on experiences in Burma, partnerships with the MOGE on infra-structure development projects invariably leads to forced displacement, forced labour and loss of livelihoods," the letter said.

"There are already reports of human rights violations in [Burma's western] Arakan state connected to the project's exploration phase, including arrests and beatings of fishermen, and abuses will escalate as the project progresses."

In tandem with exponential economic and population growth, China went from being a net exporter of oil in the 1980s to a net importer by 1993.

According to the Institute for the Analysis of Global Security (IAGS), China's oil consumption grows by 7.5 percent each year, seven times faster than the United States. The SGM letter acknowledged China's increasing energy needs, but said that "urgent measures are required" to ensure regional stability and development.

It added that Chinese companies and the Burmese army would be responsible for exporting vast quantities of oil and gas from Burma "while the electricity consumption per capita in Burma is less than five percent of the Chinese people".

"This is a dangerous combination which could further fuel serious conflicts and anti-Chinese sentiment in Burma", it said, pointing to the hike in fuel prices which ignited the September 2007 uprising in Burma.

Reporting by Thurein Soe

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