Nowadays, most important news gets ignored, buried or goes under the radar by corporate-owned media, especially when this news reveals the dark side of the “free market” or the dark plans for more parasitic, predator capitalism unleashed against a weakened populace or country.
Myanmar is the modern name for a country the English speaking empires still call Burma.
On May 2 nd , US President George W. Bush ordered a new round of sanctions on Burmese state companies to pressure the military leadership there over human rights abuses and to push for political change.
Few wires picked up this Act of Aggression from Washington. Instead, the whole world watched with wonder as Tropical Cyclone Nargis slammed into Myanmar on May 2nd and May 3 rd .
For over a week, meteorologists knew that Myanmar would be hit so it is either ironic or planned that Bush would sanction Myanmar the same day it was to be devastated.
Bush announced in his statement on May 2nd, "Today I've issued a new executive order that instructs the Treasury Department to freeze the assets of Burmese state-owned companies that are major sources of funds that prop up the junta."
The sanctions were targeted at companies and industries that produce timber, pearls and gems. Notice that gas and oil were not on the list of sanctions.
Myanmar is one of the world's oldest oil producers. It exporting its first barrel in 1853. Rangoon Oil Company, the first foreign oil company to drill in the country, was created in 1871. Between 1886 and 1963, the Myanmar's oil industry was dominated by Burmah Oil Company ( BOC ), which discovered the Ychaugyaung field in 1887 and the Chauk field in 1902. Both fields are still in production.
The oil and gas industry was nationalized after a socialist-leaning military regime seized power in 1962. As in many other countries, the State assumed ownership of the resources, either operating them itself or delegating this task to private operators, who were paid for their outlay and work in oil or gas under production sharing contracts called PSCs.
The article, ‘Big Oil Fuelling Burma’s Junta?’ (click here says, “…global oil companies are falling all over themselves in the cue to gain access to what may be substantial oil reserves in that fractured country.” If Myanmar was fractured before, it is shattered from Tropical Cyclone Nargis.
French oil giant TOTAL is the fourth largest oil company in the UK, and the fourth largest oil company in the world. On February 21, 2005, the Burma Campaign UK published a hard-hitting new report exposing how oil giant TOTAL plays a crucial role in funding and protecting Burma’s brutal military dictatorship. (click here
The report said, “There has been little relief for villagers living in the Yadana pipeline region in southern Burma since the Chevron Corporation became a partner to this natural gas venture in 2005.”
"Chevron and its consortium partners continue to rely on the Burmese army for pipeline security and those forces continue to conscript thousands of villagers for forced labour, and to commit torture, rape, murder and other serious abuses in the course of their operations," revealed the 76-page report, 'The Human Cost of Energy'.
“Chevron should act on "its moral and legal obligations to human rights rather than profit from human rights abuses," the report added of this project that earned the Burma's junta about 1.1 billion US dollars in 2006, over half of its total earnings from the sale of gas to neighbouring Thailand, which was 2.16 billion dollars that year.”
The Yadana pipeline has been dogged by controversy and human rights abuses since its inception in 1991. The venture, to extract offshore natural gas in the Andaman Sea and have it flow along an overland pipe to Thailand, was backed by a consortium that included the US company Unocal, French company Total and a subsidiary of Thailand’s state-owned gas and oil company. The local partner was the Myanmar Gas and Oil Enterprise, an affiliate of Burma’s energy ministry.
In developing Burmese energy resources, the ruling Myanmar junta has forcibly relocated villages and uses villagers as slave labor. This keeps profits high for foreign oil companies and the ruling junta who get their cut.
Soldiers are contracted by foreign investors to protect energy project sites and pipelines. Violence by these is commonplace, perpetuating the cycle of human rights abuses. Soldiers have been implicated in killings, beatings, rapes and arrests of the villagers living on or by energy fields and pipelines.