Private oil wells seized for Chinese company

Nov 19, 2009 (DVB), Private oil wells and farmland in western Burma have been seized by government authorities to ready for exploration by a Chinese oil company, locals said.

The Chinese National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC) has been exploring for oil in Arakan state since 2005, in partnership with the Myanmar Oil and Gas Enterprise (MOGE).

Locals living in Kyaukphyu township have complained that around 50 hand-dug oil wells were seized on 14 November, along with 20 acres of farmland.

The Burmese government had sent a delegation from the capital, Naypyidaw, to oversee the confiscation, although owners have reportedly been denied compensation.

"Nothing has been said about the compensation yet," said a local resident. "We heard the Chinese oil company CNOOC is to search for oil on the land."

According to owners, the oil wells have been highly productive over the past two years, although a government official in Kyaukphyu said that locals were prohibited from exploring the area.

"The government had already intended to work on the land so it didn't grant legal permission for any private businesses to work there," said Kyaw Myint. "We have not received any complaints regarding [the confiscation] either."

Arakan state, which lies next to the gas-rich Bay of Bengal, has been the site of heavy development in recent years as the Burmese government looks to exploit the region's rich natural energy resources.

China last month began a multi-billion dollar project to construct 980-kilometer pipelines connecting the Bay of Bengal to its southern Yunnan province. The pipelines will transport Burmese natural gas, as well as oil shipped over from the Middle East.

Earlier this month the China National Petroleum Company (CNPC) started work on a crude oil port on Maday island, off the coast of Arakan state.

It will create an important shortcut for the 75 percent of China's oil that comes from the Middle East and Africa, bypassing out the strategically sensitive and congested Malacca Strait.

Environmental and human rights campaigners have claimed however that the pipeline project will lead to heavy militarisation along its route, as well as forced labour and displacement.

The Shwe Gas Movement, which is campaigning against the pipeline project, said in an open letter to the Chinese government in October that arrests and beatings of fisherman in Arakan state had already taken place in relation to the project.

Reporting by Aye Nai

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