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$1 bn Burma Gas Deal.

		Bilateral $1 bn Burma gas deal moves to go-ahead

	Development of a $US 1 billion (($1.27 billion) offshore gas 
project in Burma's Andaman Sea is expected to get the go-ahead later this 
year, oil and gas industry sources say.

	They expect final agreement to be reached between Thailand's 
Ministry of Industry and Burma's Energy Ministry, covering the newly 
developed Yetagon gas field in the Andaman Sea.

	The field's development is being overseen by United States oil 
giant Texaco Corp and will add to gas supplies from the Yadana field to 
the north, the centre of an initial 1995 bilateral agreement.

	A Texaco source in Rangoon said a memorandum of understanding 
could be expected within the next two months.

	Following that, a gas sales agreement (GSA) could then be 
expected by the end of the year, said the source, who asked not to be named.

	"We're a few months away from a GSA, then we can move forward on 
the development," the source said, adding that negotiations were still 
taking place with Thailand's Petroleum Authority (PTT).

	Under the earlier agreement, the Yadana field, in the Gult of 
Matarban, is now being developed by Unocal Corp of the US, with the 
pipeline project to Thailand's western provinces worth an estimated $US 
640 million.

	The Yadana field development, valued at $US 1 billion, has 
estimated gas reserves of 9 trillion cubic feet and is due to go on line 
in June 1998. Exports of 525 million cubic feet a day to Thailand are due 
by 1999.

	Under the Yetagon concession, Thaliand will receive 30 years' 
supply of natural gas.

	The formal purchase contract will be between the PTT and the 
Yetagon gas developers, led by Texaco.

	Negotiations had included the State-owned Mynamar Oil & Gas 
Enterprise, Texaco Exploration (Myanmar), a UK offshoot of Premier Oil, 
Premier Petroleum (Myanmar), and Nippon Oil Exploration (Myanmar).

	The Yetagon concession has four test wells on two sites, with 
each well capable of producing an average of 100 million cubic feet of 
natural gas a day as well as some crude oil.

	Texaco's long-term plan had been to lay an underwater pipeline 
from its Yetagon offshore wells to a Burmese village and then share the 
Unocal and Total overland pipeline to Thailand, according to a report by 
Burma's Karen National Union.

	The pipeline project into Thailand has been widely criticised by 
human rights organisations because the concession funding, worth some $ 
400 million a year, goes to the Burmese junta.

	Unocal has remained steadfast in pressing ahead with its oil and 
gas program in Burma, despite pressure for it to pull back.

	Company officials last year denied allegations that slave labour 
had been used to clear land for the new pipeline, saying they were 
"patently false, absolutely unfounded".

	But two US envoys, retired Ambassador Mr William Brown and Mr 
Stanley Roth, a former US National Security Council director, 
acknowledged in Bangkok recently the use of forced labour involving 
American companies in Burma.

	Mr Brown and Mr Roth had been carrying out talks with Asian 
regional leaders aimed at promoting a regional consensus to avert 
violence amid Burma's rising political tensions.

	Mr Brown said in Bangkok that there had been "some mitigation, 
some amelioration, improvement on the question of forced labour in Burma".

	Without naming the US companies, Mr Brown said that since "the 
Burmese Government has consolidated its hold over the border 
regions...the issue of forced porterage (has) diminished".

	"Particularly, in projects that involved American firms, those 
problrms have been significantly addressed, we're happy to report," he said.

	The Karen National Union said porters had been used for site 
clearance on the pipeline route's eastern section.

[Ron Corben, in Bangkok, 2 July 1996].