It may be bloody on the streets of Burma, but its business as usual for the oil industry.
While Burma’s military junta cracks down on pro-democracy protests, oil companies are quietly jostling for access to the country’s largely untapped natural gas and oil fields.
Just last Sunday – as marches led by Buddhist monks drew thousands in the country’s biggest cities – Indian Oil Minister Murli Deora was in Burma’s capital Rangoon for the signing of contracts between state-controlled ONGC Videsh Ltd and Burma’s military rulers to explore three offshore blocks.
Meanwhile Chevron, the only US company that still has a significant presence in Burma, has issued a vague statement of support for human rights, but have so far continued to back the military junta with millions of dollars in oil and gas royalties.
Companies from China, South Korea, Thailand and elsewhere are also looking to exploit the energy resources of the desperately poor Southeast Asian country. France’s Total SA and Malaysia’s Petroliam Nasional Bhd, or Petronas, currently pump gas from fields off Burma’s coast through a pipeline to Thailand, which takes 90 per cent of Burma’s gas output.
“They are funding the dictatorship,” said Marco Simons, US legal director at EarthRights International, an environmental and human rights group with offices in Thailand and Washington. “The oil and gas companies have been one of the major industries keeping the regime in power.”
TAKE ACTION HERE
Listen to or read the comments of Oil Change Board Chair Katie Redford on Democracy Now!