Maung Rammar reports.
In Pyithu Hluttaw on September 27, U Ba Shin, a Pyithu Hluttaw Representative from Kyauk Pru asked if there is any plan to distribute electricity to Kyauk Pru using natural gas from Shwe Natural Gas deposits located about 25 miles from the township. In his reply to the question, Union Minister for Energy U Than Htay said that natural gas obtained from Shwe Natural Gas fields will be exported to China through the Burma-China natural gas pipeline and gas cannot be used against the China-Burma agreement.
The opinions of some Arakanese leaders on the statement made by Union Minister for Energy U Than Htay were solicited by Narinjara and gathered together here as follows:
U Aye Thar Aung
General Secretary of Arakan League for Democracy (ALD)
Secretary of Committee of Representing People’s Parliament (CRPP)
“It is very insulting to the Arakanese that gas from Arakan will not be used in Arakan. In short, those words are very hurting ones. Arakanese mainly own all the resources extracted from Arakan. Whether it is gas or oil or wood products or seafood, Arakanese own all those valuable resources. If Burma is a true union and Arakan is a part of it, Arakan should have rights to enjoy some benefits of local products. Therefore, I think the statement saying that there is no plan to use Arakan gas for Arakan is an insult to all Arakanese.”
Dr. Aye Kyaw (U.S.A)
“Gas and other resources from Arakan should bring benefits to all Arakanese. Right now, Arakanese do not get any benefits they deserve. Therefore, we cannot say Burma is a true union as she should be. Though we heard the term Union of Burma, in reality, Burma is just a fake union. Therefore, some appropriate arrangements for Arakanese should be made so that Arakanese can gain some benefits from Arakan gas, teak, and ironwood. I am not saying just for Arakan. Such arrangements should also be done for other states. Then, our country will become a true union. Otherwise, Burma will not become a true union and we will get stuck with a fake one.”
Dr. Khin Maung
Chairman of National Union Party of Arakan (NUPA)
Vice-Chairman I of Arakan National Council (ANC)
“The Union Minister openly and bluntly reaffirmed their policy that Arakan’s land, water, air, and all natural energy are all under [the central government’s] total control. All of them are actually Arakanese property. However, Arakanese do not have the right for self-determination and freedom of speech. It indicates that Arakanese are losing rights to use its own resources. Therefore, I think Union Minister for Energy dare to imply that the current government does not care for Arakanese and the government will manipulate Arakan resources any way they want for their own benefits instead”
Daw Saw Mra Raza Lurn
Chairwoman of Arakan Women Union
“In my opinion, such statement that Arakan natural gas will not be used for Arakan is an utter insult to all Arakanese. Arakanese own that oil and natural gas and they should be used in Arakan. The statement made by the current government, though it publicly said it is moving toward democracy, is an insult to all Arakanese. All Arakanese should protest this effectively. For the sake of all Arakanese and Arakanese interests, I would like to urge all Arakanese to join hands together with the prominent Arakanese leaders and protect [our own] interests.
Ko Tun Zaw
Joint Secretary I of All Arakan Students and Youth Congress (AASYC)
“Exporting all the energy generated in Arakan to a foreign state, instead of using it to fulfill the needs of the state, shows, in my opinion, the lack of respect to the will of Arakanese. Though [the leaders of the current government] are currently declaring that they would listen to the voice of the people and the government is a democratic one that respects the people, I think this incident shows that the government is not democratic and does not listen to the peoples’ voice.”
Ko Wong Aung
Global Coordinator of Shwe Gas Movement
“We welcome to the efforts of the companies involved in Shwe Natural Gas Project for the development of the locals; whether they try to help in health care or education sectors by building clinics and schools. However, we can’t be satisfied by having new schools, and clinics without medical supplies and doctors. What they have done is not operating well at all. In reality, due to Shwe Gas project, the farmers lost their ancestral lands and they have become landless farmers. When their lands that have been passed down generation after generation were stripped from them, they had no right to refuse. Both the government and the companies are forcing the farmers to sell their land at the meager price they want to pay. Nothing has so far benefited the locals; whether in terms of job opportunities or electricity for development purposes, or water or gas. Some portion of the gas will be allocated for government cronies to run their industry and the rest would be sold to China. For the locals, they lost the livelihoods including their ancestral lands. People become unemployed. National and cultural heritages are even now being threatened to vanish.
Summary of Shwe Gas Project
The Ministry of Energy and Daewoo International Corporation started the oil and natural gas exploration off the coast of Arakan. In 2004, the huge natural gas deposit called “Shwe” was found and the efforts to extract were later undertaken to produce economically.
It is estimated that over 2,900 million dollars of revenue will be generated annually. While the Arakanese (the sole owner of the oil and gas) believe that some profits from the Shwe gas should be used for the development of Arakan, Union Minister for Energy U Than Htay spoke up that there is no plan to use Arakan gas for Arakan causing tension between the government and Arakanese.