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Subject: AP:  UNOCAL, TOTAL & SLORC Burned Down Villages


 Associated Press Writer
   RANGOON, Burma (AP) -- The Burmese military burned down villages and
used forced labor to build the infrastructure for a gas pipeline partly
owned by U.S. and French oil companies, human rights groups said Friday.
   The 60-page report compiled by the Southeast Asian Information Network
and Earth Rights International criticized the $1.4-billion project, which
is half-owned by Burma's ruling military.
   The junta is currently engaged in a crackdown on the pro-democracy
movement led by 1991 Nobel Peace Prize-winner Aung San Suu Kyi. The arrest
of hundreds of her supporters has focused attention on the regime's
business dealings with foreign companies profiting from the developing
country's economy.
   The 254-mile Burmese end of the pipeline, to be completed in 1998, will
carry gas from the Gulf of Martaban to Thailand. It is expected to earn
Burma's military government $400 million a year in foreign exchange.
   The oil companies involved -- Total of France and Unocal of the United
States -- have already denied many of the accusations in the report.
   Unocal officials have said there have been no forced relocations since
it signed a contract for the project in 1992. Unocal says it has been
welcomed by villagers, and that charges of forced labor were false.
   The remote region is off-limits to foreigners without permission. But
rights advocates who traveled there surreptitiously tell a different story.
   They accuse the oil companies of awareness of and complicity in forced
labor and relocations, arbitrary killings, rape and torture committed by
Burma's military to build a railway, roads, helicopter pads and other
infrastructure used to bring in equipment for the pipeline.
   Since the contract was signed, the report says, Burmese troop strength
in the area has increased from five to 14 battalions. U.N. investigators
have said that human-rights abuses go hand-in-hand with the presence of the
Burmese army.
   "In October 1993, up to 2,000 people every day were reportedly being
forced to labor on the construction of (the) railway," the report said.
   An ad last year for the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand --
the sole purchaser of gas from the pipeline -- confirmed that 11 ethnic
Karen villages have been relocated.
   The report also cites three attacks on pipeline workers, one by a rebel
army and two by villagers.
   Oil companies have denied that two of the attacks took place, but
villagers say they did and the Burmese army executed villagers and burned
homes in response.
   In response to the report, Burma's state-owned New Light of Myanmar
newspaper chastised foreign critics, noting the poor conditions under which
Chinese immigrants built railroads in 19th-century America.
   It said Burma's ancient temples could never have been built in the
presence of "organizations such as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty
International, broadcasting stations such as BBC and VOA and U.S.
Congressmen who like to interfere in other people's affairs."
   The Information Network campaigns on human rights and environmental
issues in Burma. Earth Rights International, also Thailand-based, studies
legal aspects of environmental issues.