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TOTAL Letter to Edith Mirante trans

Subject: TOTAL Letter to Edith Mirante translated

Translated by L.A. Campaign for a Free Burma

Edith Mirante
Project Maje
14, Dartmouth Road

Dear Mrs. [sic] Mirante,

You recently have written to a few members of the Administrative Council of 
Total, who forwarded your letters to us.

You questioned us on the conditions of Total's presence in Burma (Myanmar).  
It seems useful us to provide you with a certain number of clarifications. 

Our project includes the development of a gas field situated in the Andaman 
sea and the construction of a pipeline from this offshore field to the Thai 

First, you need to know the construction of this pipeline hasn't started yet.  
Some preparatory reconnaissance, geared to define a final route, has been 
conducted between March and May of 1995.  Some technical ["genie civil"] work 
has recently been launched since the return of the dry season. The 
installation of the pipeline itself will take place in 1996-97, to allow gas 
deliveries in Thailand starting July 1st of 1998.  We emphasize these dates 
because we can only be stunned ["bitten"] by the total virulence of comments 
made relative to the conditions in which the labor will supposedly be done-- 
in reality, it hasn't even started.

We can confirm to you that there is not and will not be, from the part of 
those who will build the pipeline, any recourse to forced labor.  The pipeline 
will be installed under the operational control of Total who, as always in 
similar situations, will call upon specialized, internationally renowned 
companies.  Those companies will employ the local manpower, which will clearly 
be voluntary and paid.  The conditions with regard to the human and labor 
rights will be absolutely equivalent to the ones we apply everywhere else in 
the world.  It is unimaginable that Total could resort, either directly or 
through a third party, to forced labor in any form.

The method of work allegedly used to built the railroad linking the cities of 
Ye and Tavoy are sometimes denounced.  It needs to be known that this railroad 
has nothing to do with the pipeline project:

	-- The railroad, follows a North-South route, whereas the future 
pipeline follows a West-East route.
	-- It should be finished no earlier than 1998, which is after the 
construction of the pipeline (1996-1997)
	-- Technically, its capacity will be incompatible with conveying the 
massive materials utilized in pipeline construction.  For the construction of 
the pipeline, the equipment will be shipped by barge then transferred by 
trucks to the construction site.

Some "forced relocation" of populations is also allegedly attributable to the 
pipeline construction. Since the closing of the first agreements relative to 
the development of gas in Yadana (1992), we have not known of any village 
displacement linked to our project.  There would be no reason for such 
displacement since the pipeline route selected avoids villages.  It could 
happen--as in any great undertaking throughout the world--that the pipeline 
crosses portions of cultivated land. In this case, of course, Total and its 
partners would indemnify people whose interests would be harmed.

Moreover, and contrary to certain assertions, this project will not in any way 
endanger the ecological balance of the area.  The terrestrial portion of the 
pipeline--which will be buried--will run across the country for a short 
distance: 60 km (about 40 miles).  At the end of last year, Total sent 
multi-disciplinary teams to the region.  They carefully evaluated several 
options for the pipeline route. The selected route is the one which best 
respects the environment.  The zones traversed do not include primary forests, 
but rather slightly wooded zones.  The only proposed logging will take place 
on the route's last 2-3 kilometers (1.5-2 miles), since it crosses a 
mountainous region; but this logging will be compensated by plantations, 
equivalent at the least. 

At last, to again place things in a larger context, Total considers that the 
project of development of Yadana gas field creates a historical chance for the 
people of Burma, since it will represent an important part of the country's 
exports.  We hold the conviction that when a country possesses strong energy 
resources, it is in its best interest to open itself to the world, foster 
changes of society, obtain peace on its territory, to durably win the trust of 
international investors.  The recent liberation of Mrs. Aung San Suu Kyi, 
which we are celebrating, comforts us in this conviction.

Wishing that these clarifications will fulfill your expectations, we beg you 
to believe, dear madam, the assurance of our best feelings.  [This is typical 
of closing salutations in French correspondance]

Director of Institutional Relations