Major Chinese & Korean Companies Linked to Rights Abuses in Burma

EarthRights International (ERI) today issued a damning report (PDF: English | Korean) linking major Chinese and Korean companies to widespread land confiscation, and cases of forced labor, arbitrary arrest, detention and torture, and violations of indigenous rights connected to the Shwe natural gas project and oil transport projects in Burma (Myanmar). The publication, The Burma-China Pipelines: Human Rights Violations, Applicable Law, and Revenue Secrecy, draws primarily on two years of clandestine interviews with affected populations from Arakan State, Magway Division, and Mandalay Division, as well as leaked documents that provide new insight into secretive payments between the oil companies and the military regime, controversial security arrangements, and inadequate corporate due diligence.

ERI found that the companies have not obtained a social license to operate, with local populations uniformly opposed to the project at this time. “Not one villager we spoke to was in favor of these projects,” said Naing Htoo, Burma Project Coordinator for ERI, quoted in the ERI press release (PDF: English, Korean). “[A]nd that’s not surprising given that there has been a pervasive and deliberate disregard for the rights of individuals and communities living in the projects’ path. People are losing their land, they’ve been compensated poorly or not at all, and many literally have nowhere to turn,” Naing Htoo continued. “These blatant violations are in the name of development, they are widespread and systematic, and the companies are aware of what’s happening and aren’t acting to prevent the abuses.”

In one case cited in the report, a local Arakan man was arrested, beaten and imprisoned for six months in Insein Prison for simply attending community-level meetings discussing the project. He told ERI, “For four days I was beaten nonstop, always being questioned…They asked me many things. They beat me very hard.”

These China-Burma pipelines will transport gas from Burma and oil from the Middle East and Africa via pipelines from Arakan State in western Burma to China’s Yunnan province. China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC), Daewoo International, Korea Gas Corporation (KOGAS), ONGC Videsh, the Gas Authority of India (GAIL), and the state-owned Myanmar Oil and Gas Enterprise (MOGE) comprise the operating consortiums for the projects.

EarthRights International makes a number of practical recommendations for governments, banks, monetary authorities, investors, and oil companies with respect to the Burma-China pipelines. At the forefront of these recommendations is for the companies involved in the pipelines to immediately postpone their operation until the people of Burma can meaningfully participate in development decisions, preconditions for responsible investment are in place, and adverse impacts can be mitigated.

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