Narinjara News

New Artillery Installation to guard Rakhine Gas Fields

Sittwe, 29
th July 03:  The Burma Army has begun construction of artillery base on an island close to Sittwe, the capital of Rakhine State, in western Burma.  The base is being installed at the southern tip of West Farunga Island, about fifty kilometres south to Sittwe.

Sources in the administration preferring to be anonymous said that the artillery base is aimed at safeguarding the construction of facilities in an offshore gas field, from which the gas would ultimately be piped to neighbouring countries.  

The Chin minority villagers in the nearby areas including Soemegyi Village have been engaged in forced labour in the construction of the artillery base.  The source also said that a total of five such artillery bases in the nearby islands of Kyun-thaya of Mrebon Township, Man-aung, Thabru-chaing in Thandway Township, and Oyster lighthouse beside the one at Farunga would be constructed for offering protection to the offshore gas interest. 

Meanwhile ONGC Videsh, the overseas arm of India’s Oil and Natural Gas Corp. (ONGC), has singled out Burma as one of its investment target for 2004, according to a World Markets Analysis report on 21 July 03.  The company is said to have contacted the Myanmar Oil and Gas Enterprise (MOGE) to express an interest in blocks A-2 and A-3 in Rakhine State.  ONGC currently holds a stake in block A-1 in partnership with the Gas Authority of India Ltd (GAIL) and South Korea’s Daewoo Corp., said the report.

ONGC Videsh has budgeted almost US$1.3 billion for overseas projects in the coming year.  Though it could not be confirmed whether the Burmese military regime has been utilizing the money from ONGC Videsh for the construction of the five artillery bases in the Rakhine islands.

A political watcher said that in the Yetagun and Yadana gas pipelines built for transmission of natural gas to Thailand in the southern part of Burma by the Tootal and Unocal, wide scale use of forced labour and forced relocation of dozens of villages raised concern among the international human rights bodies and the ILO besides the Unocal having been sued in a US court for a few years now.  #