Myanmar rebels threaten to attack Indian gas firms

Wednesday, 28 January 2004, 08:00 Hrs
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KOLKATA: Pro-democracy advocates in Myanmar have threatened violence against Indian and South Korean energy firms exploring gas in their country, saying that the activities were "exploitative".

India's Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC) Videsh Ltd and Gas Authority of India Limited (GAIL) have joined hands with South Korean firms Daewoo and Korea Gas Corporation (KOGAS) to drill for 47.3 trillion cubic feet of gas in Myanmar's Arakan state.

But exiled pro-democracy groups say that poor Myanmarese people weren't benefiting from the huge gas reserve in their backyard.

"The military junta is selling the gas to serve its own purposes and it doesn't bother if poor people are exploited," said Kyaw Han, convenor of the anti-gas exports committee, a body of several exiled pro-democracy Myanmarese groups.

"We will not hesitate to attack all the installations and company officials if the benefits of this huge reserve of gas doesn't percolate down to the local people," said Han, who was in India to attend the World Social Forum in Mumbai.

While Daewoo has won 50 percent of the contract, ONGC Videsh Ltd (OVL) accounts for 20 percent. The other two firms hold the remainder.

"If the local Arakan people don't benefit from gas, then all these activities are exploitative," the Bangladesh-based Han told IANS.

"We believe that the military junta can't sell our gas because they are not the genuine representatives of the people. The people will decide what we will do with our gas and that can happen only when there is democracy in the country," Han stated.

He said the military government was using the money from gas to buy weapons.

Han is heading a movement that is seeking to "sensitise the international community to the immense exploitation" that the Myanmarese people are being subjected to by the country's military government.

"At the World Social Forum we spoke to many groups, including Korean and Indian activists, about the situation in our country," Han said.

The anti-gas exports committee, being backed by exiled pro-democracy Myanmarese groups based in Thailand, Bangladesh, India and the US, has written to the Indian government requesting it "not to participate in this exploitation" of the Myanmarese people.

"But we have received no response. We are not against sale of gas to India but not at the cost of our people.

"If our demand is not met, we will throw out the foreign companies. We will give them an ultimatum soon," Han said.

Source: IANS
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