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re Burma, letter to Le monde
- Subject: re Burma, letter to Le monde
- From: cd@xxxxxxxxxx
- Date: Mon, 06 May 1996 04:44:00
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
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
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.
Friends of Burma France