Multinationals invest in Burma oil and gas, reject criticism
Korean company Daewoo International is heading the construction of a controversial pipeline project in Burma and has announced a rise in shares after acquisition interest from POSCO, one of the world’s largest steel companies.
Daewoo International has attracted interest after nine financial institutions put their collective 68 percent stake in the company up for sale, Reuters reported.
Daewoo has been heavily criticized for its role in the construction of a $US6.7 billion oil and gas pipeline project in Burma, known as the Shwe Gas Project.
The project is to build pipelines to connect Burma’s Bay of Bengal gas fields to China’s southern Yunnan province. The pipelines will also transport Middle Eastern oil cargo across the breadth of Burma. The project has received strong support from the Burmese government and Beijing.
Campaigners have warned that the human and environmental costs could be huge, with intense militarization along the length of the pipeline and damage to ecosystems likely.
The campaign group, Shwe Gas Movement, have quoted the International Labour Organization (ILO) as estimating that ‘more than 800,000 Burmese are currently conscripted in slave-like conditions with little or no pay’ in various projects across Burma that come under the banner of ‘development’.
In August, the Independent (UK) reported on revelations by EarthRights International of Burmese villagers being forced to porter, carry wood, repair roads and build police stations and barracks, near the Yadana pipeline which French energy giant Total is operating. Burma’s junta officially outlawed forced labour in 1999, but reports are rife of the military forcing civilians to work for them. Total, on its website, insists that the area around their pipeline is free of forced labour.
Sources: Rajesheree Sisodia and Andrew Buncombe, The Independent (UK), 17 August 2009; Joseph Allchin, Democratic Voice of Burma, 29 September 2009