China to begin Burma pipeline construction

June 16, 2009 (DVB), China will begin construction of oil and gas pipelines through Burma in September aimed at cutting shipping time for crude oil imports, despite criticism of the project's impact on civilians in the pipeline vicinity.

The 2,800 kilometer gas pipeline, known as the Shwe Gas Project, will run from Burma's western Arakan state to China's southwestern Yunnan province.

The deal between the two countries was signed in March this year. India initially looked set to secure the contract, but China's veto of a 2007 UN Security Council resolution that would have pressured Burma to end aggression against its citizens appeared to have been the seal.

Until now China has relied on the congested Strait of Malacca, between Singapore and Indonesia's Sumatra peninsular, to transport oil from the Middle East to its energy-hungry population.

The China Securities Journal today said that the building of the Burma section of the pipeline would be done under the state-owned China National Petroleum Company (CNPC).

The Shwe Gas Project has involved a number of international companies, including Korea's Daewoo International who began exploration of the gas deposits off the coast of Arakan state in 2003.

Yesterday, advocacy group EarthRights International (ERI) and campaign group, the Shwe Gas Movement (SGM), revealed that the Korean government had rejected a complaint about human rights violations surrounding the project.

The project has already been linked with cases of forced relocation of civilians and land confiscation.

A spokesperson for SGM, Ko Kin, said in March that despite the human cost of the project for Burmese civilians, "the energy resources are not used for Burma but sold to a foreign country".

According to Reuters, the pipeline will deliver around 400,000 barrels-per-day of crude oil to China, while the gas pipeline has a transportation capacity of 12 billion cubic meters a year.

Reporting by Francis Wade

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