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Unocal responds to NY Times

EL SEGUNDO, Calif., Dec. 19 /PRNewswire/ -- Unocal Corporation today issued
the following statement from Roger C. Beach, Unocal chairman and chief
executive officer, in response to a recent editorial in The New York Times
calling for Unocal's withdrawal from the Yadana natural gas pipeline project
in Myanmar. 

In its editorial, The New York Times argues that the people of Myanmar would
best be served by economic isolation -- and that the inevitable hardships
this would cause will somehow result in the flowering of democracy and human

If history has shown us anything, it has shown exactly the opposite: economic
isolation generally causes chaos, suffering and hardship for the very people
it was intended to help.  It rarely does anything to advance democracy or
improve human rights. 

In the case of Myanmar, 30 years of self-imposed isolation brought only
poverty and misery to the nation's people.  Now, Myanmar is finally opening
up to foreign investment and ideas.  Certainly, the transition to democracy
is not taking place as quickly as everyone would like.  But given its
economic hardships and long-standing ethnic divisions, Myanmar cannot be
expected to instantly transform itself into a democracy.  It is only through
economic development that a strong framework for lasting social change can be

The Times asserts that Unocal "cannot claim it is bringing change to this
blighted nation."  But the Yadana project is doing just that.  Our project
has already provided significant benefits to the 35,000 people who live near
the pipeline area -- an extremely poor and undeveloped region of Myanmar.  In
addition to creating high-paying jobs, Unocal and Total (the French oil
company serving as project operator) have begun a program to provide improved
medical care, new and refurbished schools, electrical power and agricultural
development in the pipeline region. 

The editorial implies that Unocal is profiting indirectly from the use of
forced labor to build a railroad to "transport government troops to protect
the pipeline."  But there is absolutely no connection between this railroad
and construction of the Yadana pipeline.  In fact, the railroad right-of-way
runs perpendicular to the pipeline, and the railway itself will not be
completed until long after the pipeline is up and running. 

Furthermore, the Yadana project has adhered to strict standards covering
employment practices.  There has been no forced or conscripted labor on our
project.  All workers are paid a higher-than-average wage, and are paid

The editorial is also inaccurate in its characterization of Unocal's shipment
of fertilizer on credit to Myanmar as a "bailout" and a "lifeline" for the
government.  This is unfair and simply untrue.  Unocal shipped the fertilizer
to enable Myanmar to increase its agricultural production.  We will be paid
back -- with interest -- from future pipeline revenues. 

Would the people of Myanmar be better off if Unocal left, or if we'd never
come?  Would their prospects be brighter without the Yadana project?  They
certainly don't think so! 

Earlier this year I visited seven villages in the pipeline region -- none of
which have been "relocated," as some groups have charged.  I saw first-hand
the positive impact of the good works we're undertaking.  Our group was
warmly received by the local residents everywhere we went.  Everyone we spoke
with supported the pipeline project.  They clearly do not want us to leave.
 Our project is directly and tangibly improving the quality of their lives. 

Unocal's withdrawal would only serve to reduce U.S. influence in Myanmar. It
would also further marginalize our nation's influence with ASEAN and other
Asian nations that have commerce and diplomatic contact with Myanmar.  Our
departure would certainly not foster democracy or advance human rights, and
would have virtually no economic impact.  That's because our investment would
be easily replaced by foreign companies. 

The people of Myanmar desperately need projects such as Yadana to provide
employment, improve living standards and demonstrate the value of free-market
economics.  Economic advancement, in turn, will help pave the way for social
and political reform.  This is the only effective and lasting way to advance
human rights.  We've seen this kind of progression take place in Thailand,
Indonesia, the Philippines, and many other developing nations in the region.
We're seeing it take place, slowly but surely, in China.  And we will see it
in Myanmar.  Shutting off American investment and influence would not
accelerate the nation's transition to democracy.  The best way for America to
advance this process is by remaining engaged and involved in the nation's
economic development. 

As a private company, Unocal does not support or oppose governments.  Our
proper responsibility is to find, develop and market resources to help people
meet their growing energy needs. 

I am proud of our involvement in the Yadana project.  It will provide
substantial, long-term benefits to the people of Myanmar, and help open the
country to new ideas and opportunities.  As the first cross-border project
between Thailand and Myanmar, it is also helping to foster much-needed
regional cooperation and stability. 

SOURCE  Unocal Corp. 

CO:  Unocal Corp. 

ST:  California 



12/19/96 11:50 EST http://www.prnewswire.com