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Country 'can do without Burmese gas (r)

October 9, 1997

Country 'can do without Burmese gas'
Energy consumption can be met locally
Chakrit Ridmontri
Thailand's energy supply remains secure with no need to acquire natural gas 
from Burma's Yadana and Yetagun fields, a conservationist argued yesterday.
The director of Towards Ecological Recovery and Regional Alliances, Witoon 
Permpongsacharoen, said Thailand generated 18,900 megawatts (MW) of 
electricity while consuming only 13,311 MW last year.
It was therefore not necessary for the Electricity Generating of Thailand 
(Egat) to produce more electricity using natural gas from Burma.
He said the halt of the gas pipeline construction would not cost the country 
40 million baht in daily fines or subject it to an energy shortage as project 
owner Petroleum Authority of Thailand (PTT) has claimed.
The PTT signed a contract with Burma in 1995 to purchase gas from two fields 
to feed an Egat power plant in Ratchaburi.
The 260-km gas pipeline connecting with the Burmese pipeline at Ban I-tong in 
Thong Pha Phum district of Kanchanaburi will pass through 50 kilometres of 
forest, six kilometres of which is lush.
Mr Witoon spoke at a panel discussion on the controversial gas pipeline 
project at Chulalongkorn University's Centre for Social Development Studies 
He accused the PTT of lying when it claimed it was subject to pay a daily fine 
to the Burmese government of up to 40 million baht a day if could not finish 
its pipeline by the end of June next year.
He said the fine would go to the gas exploration consortium in which its 
affiliate PTTEP International of Thailand holds a 25 percent stake.
The other stakeholders include the French oil firm Total, Unocal of the United 
States, and Myanmar Oil and Gas Enterprise.
Mr Witoon claimed that the prices the PTT agreed to pay for the gas were 
higher than that from other sources because its subsidiary would benefit from 
the deal.
He wants the PTT to halt construction until it clarifies "irregularities" in 
its contracts and a proper mechanism is set up to monitor its performance.
Otherwise, he said, the irregularities would occur in the 12 other gas 
pipeline routes to form a network nationwide.
M.R. Sukhumbhand Paribatra, Democrat MP from Bangkok, believed the PTT was at 
a disadvantage when it signed the contract but that it was too late for the 
opposition to halt the pipeline construction because it was nearly finished.
"However, it doesn't mean that we can do nothing. If the contract is unfair to 
us the PTT must promptly reveal its details so that we will be able to 
renegotiate with Burma and find ways to minimise the social and environmental 
impact," said M.R. Sukhumbhand, a member of the House Committee on Foreign 
The PTT is due to reveal the details of the contracts it made with Burma and 
its contractors on Friday in talks with its opponents led by the Kanchanaburi 
Conservation Group.
The talks were scheduled following a preliminary discussion on Tuesday between 
the two sides mediated by the Institute of Dispute Resolution.
The authority has agreed to suspend the pipeline construction in forest areas 
as well as four other residential areas.
So far it has finished burying about 150 kilometres of pipeline on the 
sections that pass through residential areas.
The opponents have demanded that the project be reviewed, that the pipeline be 
diverted from forest areas, and that the contracts be revealed.
The PTT is hoping that the negotiations, expected to be concluded within three 
months, will convince opponents to allow the project to be completed.