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re Burma, letter to Le monde

Headline: Letter to Le Monde, Direction de la Rédaction/ Burma 
>From Dawn Star, Paris 

France embraces Mynamar's Dictatorship and its " Death Pipeline "

Le Monde's reporting on " Myanmar " is as alarmingly about the reality 
Burma's economic and political situation (Le Monde, , 3 mai, La stabilié 
politique en Asie du Sud-Est ", Jean-Claude Pomonti), as it embarrasingly 
also promoting one of the junta's key investors, PepsiCo, ("'La 
NuméroMania' de Pepsi-Cola ", 30 avril, p.21, " Pepsi 'back in USSR' ", 
p.1, 28-29 avril) currently under major attack in the United States for 
its business in Burma.

Burma's prisons are filled with political prisoners, estimated at more 
than 2000 men, women and children, raped, tortured and kept in cells used 
for military dogs. Throughout this tragedy, France's position on human 
rights issue is ambivalent, quasi nonexistant. France is the leader among 
Western countries doing business in Burma, French Ambassador Pottier said 
last year , and only recently surpassed by former colonial master, 
England of the once great British Empire. Rather  than contributing to 
political stability in Burma, France is dangerously partner to  military 
repression against peaceful national  resistance to the unpopular junta. 
Earlier this month, the United Nations Commission on Human Rights once 
again condemned Burma for its very serious human rights violations, among 
the worst in the world. Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, as 
well as Reporteurs sans Fronitières has also condemned Burma for 
censorship and its utter disregard human rights. 

Nonetheless, France, embraces " Myanmar " with open arms. But the World 
Bank and the International Monetary Fund continues to downgrade Burma?s  
economy as a state-centralised economic risk.

"French businessmen normally prefer to follow the leader when it comes to 
business, but this time they are in the forefront," says  France's 
ambassador B. Pottier. Key French exports to Burma include  gas turbines, 
French railway equipment and ATR passenger planes.

The French recently provoked world outrage over its selection of Burma 
for International Tourist Award at the Porte de Versailles World Tourism 
Salon, the first of April. This was no April Fools joke but sad 
commentary on where the French mindset is on Burma (Myanmar)'s " Visit 
Mynamar 1996 ", now under ban of a world boycott.  " Visit Myanmar Year " 
is already in trouble. The State Law and Order Restoration Council 
(SLORC) has had to postpone the start from January to October this year, 
and Slorc :scaled expected arrivals down from 500,000 to 200,000. 
Pro-democratic party  leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi , and laureate of the 
Nobel Peace Prize in 1991, has called for an international boycott of the 
event. "Burma will always be here," she says. "Visitors should come later

Now France is under world boycott for its construction of so-called " 
Death Pipeline ", named in memory of the Japanese butchery in Burma of 
British prisoners during World War II. As of September 1995, French 
investment in Burma totalled US$455 million, according to Burmese 
statistics, up from the $15 million invested in 1994, mostly by French 
firm Total in oil and gas project in the Gulf of Martaban offshore oil 
contract signed in 1991 and ratified this year. 

The French government owns 5% of Total and 14,46% of its subsidiary 
companies. The links between the French government,Total and the Slorc 
military are strong.Total's top rank is dominated by former government  
officilas and diplomats. Raymond Barre and Pierre Lellouche, Member of 
the French Parliament.When Gen Maung Aye, vice-chairman of Slorc, visited 
France as special guest of Total he was given a red-carpet treatment and 
he met business leaders in France and some government  officials.

Last February, Total declared that the Myanmar Oil and Gas Enterprises 
(MOGE), Total, Unocal, the Petroleum Authority of Thailand Exploration 
and Production Public Co. Ltd (PTTEP), had recently signed an export gas 
sales agreemnt with the Petroleum Authority of Thailand (PTT). In the 
deal, the group agress to sell to PTT natural gas produced from the 
highly controversial Yadana offshore field. 

The follows last September's  signing in of memorandum of understanding 
giving Total an edge over its partners. Since Thailand's PTTEP exercised 
its option to take an interest in the project, the present ownership 
structure is divided accordingly with Total, 36,75%, Unocal, 33,25%, 
PTTEP, 30%. However, Burma's national oil company, MOGE, retains an 
option to acquire up to a 15% interest in the project, which would thus 
reduce the  different partners' overall stake. Total's share would drop 
to 31,2%, accordingly.

Disregarding appeals by democratic opposition leader and Nobel Peace 
Prize laureate Daw Aung San Suu Kyi's appeal  NOT to invest in the 
military regime at this time, the development of the Yadana field falls 
within a carefully planned overall strategy by Total's senior management 
to extend the company's operations throughout Southeast Asian energy 

Coupled with its existing natual gas production from Thailand's Bongkot 
field, and  virtually ignoring reports in the international press and UN 
resolutions over the pipeline's alleged use of forced labor by the Slorc 
military regime, Total  is betting that this latest development will 
secure it a profitable future as a leading energy supplier to Thailand.

Since the Burmese government does not have trained engineers or 
technicians capable to supervise and manage their part of the pipeline,  
the French company has assumed full responsability as both operator for 
the development of the field, and, as well, on the pipleline to the Thai 
border, with PTT  controlling operation of the pipeline within Thailand. 

With the country plunged between warring factions, Total is certain to 
risk more incidents of the kind that occured last March when five Total 
workers were killed and 11 injured by ethnic Karen rebels seeking revenge 
for the forced explusion of local villages along the pipeline route, and 
outbreaks of violence last month that left at least one death among 
security forces guarding  " the Death Pipeline ".

Terms of the  contract, says Total, give the French full authority to " 
take all the necessary actions to ensure that deliveries to PTT will 
begin by the scheduled date of July 1, 1998 ".

Total's contract covers the next thirty years.The question, however, 
remains : will Total be forced to engage mercenary security forces to 
further protect its investment, thus propping up Burma's declining 
economy in order to fulfill its grand energy plan for South Asia's, at 
the cost of millions of suffering Burmese people who have been denied 
political freedom and a  voice in determining the future of Burma's 
economic development. 

Futhermore, The highly respected French Narcotics Watch Group, 
Observatoire Geopolitical Des Drogues (OGD) charged in a 1993 
publication: "Payments by oil companies (mainly Total, the only one ready 
to drill) have already been used by Burma's military dictatorship to 
disguise that fact that the sale of heroin finances weapons purchases.

Such purchases have amounted to US $2 billion in the past three years, 
according to SIPRI (Stockholm International Peace Research Institute)."  
 The narcotics trade monitor went on to say that: "....smaller weapons 
contracts have been concluded between Slorc and Poland (purchase of 24 
used helicopters, plus pilot training) and  Portugal (three cargoes of 
motars and ammunition)."

But it said: "Warsaw's embarrassed answer was that "Poland was paid with 
income from  French Total." But Total denied any implication in weapons 
and drug trafficking saying "...in 1992, only $15 million was paid to 
MOGE, in exchange for data on the oil field." 

The OGD said: "Oil-field development should make it all the easier for 
Burma's narco-dictatorship to disguise its narco-dollars as 
petro-dollars. Heroin income would therefore allow Slorc to remain 
solvent until the real oil money begins to flow sometime in 1995-96."

> Burma activists in Bangkok concede there is concrete proof that Rangoon's arms purchases were funded with drug money. They charge there 
is evidence, however, to suggest that Total did help fund the helicopter 

> A Bangkok-based NGO, The Southeast Asia Information Network (SAIN) has pointed to the involment of Jean Pichon, a former military attache in 
Bangkok now an arms dealer, to back up their charges. Sain claims that 
Pichon brokered the deal. Pichon,however, could not be reached for 
> "Burma is heading to a narco-state because of  the way it
> treats drug leaders leniently and turns a blind eye to drug
> trafficking," A Rangoon-based diplomat recently remarked.
> Indeed, President Chirac's visit  to Asia earlier this year comes at a time when allegations are
> being made that France has gone soft on its pledges to fight the international drug trade.

> Barry James of the International Herald Tribune wrote last
> November: "Although it [France] has some of the toughest drug
> laws in Europe, France has apparently turned a blind eye to
> the huge amount of narcotics being smuggled..."Burma was the only Southeast Asian country late president
> Francois Mitterand declined to visit.

The pipeline is planned to go through Karen and Mon territory, coming 
onshore just south
of the Heinze Basin and heading almost straight east to the Thai
border at Nat Ein Taung.  When the gas begins to flow (scheduled
for 1998), SLORC is to receive direct payments of at least US$400
million per year from the oil companies.  

However, the Karen and Mon resistance forces are against the project, as 
it is bringingdown forced relocation, forced labour and other abuses on 
their people as well as environmental destruction in their forest and sea 
reserves.  They have vowed to stop the pipeline by political means if 
possible, and if not then to destroy it.  SLORC has assured the oil 
companies that it will militarily destroy any threat to the pipeline.  

And France is not alone.  The Burmese regime has approved projects worth 
about $4 billion since it  took power after crushing a pro-democracy 
revolt in 1988. Until now, most of the  investment has been in mining, 
logging and the construction of new  tourist hotels. There is an alarming 
upsurge in exploratory missions from numerous countries.Daw Aung San 
SuuSuu Kyi, who was released from six years of house arrest in July, has 
called for dialogue towards a return to democratic government. But the  
military is pushing ahead with plans for a new constitution which will 
entrench their control. Foreign investors should realise there could be 
no sustained economic  growth and opportunities in Burma until there was 
agreement on the country's political future, Ms Suu Kyi said. You can't 
sustain economic development without peace and stability, and to  have 
peace and stability there must be trust, and that is one thing that  is 
lacking, she said.

Ye-Tavoy railway line since late 1993.  The details of this labour are 
already covered in several reports by KHRG and other groups.  Comments by 
SLORC officers along the railway route, SLORC itself and others have made 
it very clear that a major reason for the sudden hurried construction of 
this railway line was to support the gas pipeline infrastructure and the 
thousands of troops being used to secure the area.  

However, the foreign oil companies have faced so much international 
pressure about this railway that they have now categorically insisted 
that they will not under any circumstances use the railway. As the " 
Death Ralway " forced abour decreased in the pipeline area, construction 
suddenly began in February 1995 on jetty and helipad or landing strip 
facilities at Ka Daik, a small village on a southern arm of the Heinze 

Last month, it was reported that a armed conflict engulfed Total's Yadana 
 field office, near Kanbauk village, Yebyu township with a reportedly 
unknown armed group on and that a French citizen had been killed in the 
attack. . 

Meanwhile,  forced labor continues to be used in the construction of 
three-mile-long Kanbauk- Pyin Gyi motor road between Total's office and 
the sea port for transportation of the  materials for the building of 
natural gas pipe.  Total is allegedly paying 50 kyats per day for the 
each Slorc soldier supervising the forced  labor  in the construction 
project. Total SA denies using forced location on its " Death Pipeline " 
nor paying Slorc soldiers to do it.

Dawn Star
Friends of Burma France