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AP-Dow Jones: Oil Companies Ignore

Subject: AP-Dow Jones: Oil Companies Ignore Burma Abuses

Foreign Oil Companies Said To Ignore Burma Abuses:Report
   RANGOON, Burma (AP-Dow Jones)--The Burmese military has burned down =
and uses forced labor to build infrastructure needed for a gas pipeline
partly-owned by U.S. and French oil companies, human rights groups said =
in a
report released Friday. 
   The 60-page report titled 'Total Denial,' compiled by the Southeast =
Information Network and Earth Rights International, was released in Rango=
without the knowledge of Burma's military government, which owns 50% of =
$1.4 billion (U.S.) project. 
   The ruling junta is currently engaged in a crackdown on the pro-democr=
movement led by 1991 Nobel Peace Prize-winner Aung San Suu Kyi. The arres=
t of
hundreds of her supporters has focused international attention on the =
business dealings with foreign corporations profiting from developing =
   'The oil companies say the only opposition to the project comes from =
outside of Burma,' said a spokesman for the Thailand-based Southeast Asia=
Information Network. 
   'But the information here shows opposition is coming from inside the =
area of
the pipeline itself,' he said, speaking on the condition of anonymity. =

   The Southeast Asian Information Network was established several years =
ago in
Thailand to campaign on human rights and environmental issues in Burma. =
Rights International, also Thailand-based, studies legal aspects of
environmental issues related to Burma. 
   Burmese ethnic minority organizations have also publicly accused the
government of abuses connected to the pipeline. 
   The 409-kilometer Burmese end of the pipeline, to be completed in 1998=
, will
carry gas from the Gulf of Martaban to Thailand and is expected to earn =
military government U.S.$400 million a year in badly needed foreign excha=
   The report contains victim and eyewitness testimony of villagers livin=
g in
the area, and admissions by a Thai oil company, about alleged human right=
violations associated with the project. 
   The oil companies involved - Total of France and Unocal of the United =
- have already denied many of the accusations in the report, which have
filtered in bits and pieces to the outside world via media reports resear=
   Unocal officials have said that there have been no forced relocations =
the company signed a contract for the project with Burma's military gover=
in 1992. The company says that it is welcome in the area by local people,=
that charges of forced labor were false because pipeline construction =
has not
yet begun. 
   'As a rule, human rights groups do not have direct access to on-scene
information in Myanmar,' as the ruling military junta has renamed the =
a Unocal report to shareholders said. 'We do.' 
   The region is off-limits to foreigners without permission. 
   But NGO workers who traveled surreptitiously to the remote, isolated =
area and
say their research tells a different story. 
   They accuse the oil companies of awareness and complicity in forced =
labor and
relocations, arbitrary killings, rape and torture committed by Burma's =
to build a railway, roads, helicopter pads and other infrastructure used =
bring in equipment for the pipeline and troops to secure the area. 
   Since the contract was signed, the report says, Burmese troop strength=
 in the
area has increased from five to 14 battalions. United Nations investigato=
have stated that human-rights abuses go hand-in-hand with the presence =
of the
Burmese army. 
   Villagers told of the presence of Westerners as they are rounded up =
forced labor on what they call 'pipeline roads.' NGO workers believe they=
security personnel hired by the oil companies from private companies in =
and Singapore. 
   'In October, 1993, up to 2,000 people every day were reportedly being =
to labor on the construction of (the) railway,' the paper said. 
   The report cites an April 17, 1995, promotional advertisement in Thail=
Bangkok Post in Thailand by the Electricity Generating Authority of Thail=
and -
the sole purchaser of gas from the pipeline - that confirms recent popula=
   'Myanmar has recently cleared the way by relocating a total of 11 Kare=
villages that would otherwise obstruct the passage of the gas resources
development project,' the advertisement said. 
   The report also cites three attacks on pipeline workers, one by a rebe=
l army,
and two by villagers. 
   Oil companies have denied two of the attacks took place, but villagers=
they did and the Burmese army executed villagers and burned homes in resp=
Oil company workers are now sleeping in bunkers, they said. 
   'What the people of Burma have been explicitly stating (is) that unles=
s the
conflict which exists in Burma is resolved through political means, the
pipeline region will never be secure,' the report said. 
   The report says the rights abuses violate several international labor
agreements, the U.N. Declaration of Human Rights, and clauses in internat=
   (END) AP-DOW JONES NEWS 31-05-96