Local youths campaign for share of benefits from Shwe gas

Kyauk Pru: Local youths in Kyaukpru in southeastern Arakan State have launched a peaceful campaign on Thursday demanding rights and benefits from the Shwe Gas Project in their area.

A leader of the youths said over 50 of them were wearing t-shirts that bear the motto of “Our Gas, Our Future” and fastening banners that read “Utilize Gas from Arakan’s Shwe Gas for Arakan” in front of their cars. They held a procession through the town and a prayer ceremony at the famous Kantkawtaw Pagoda in the town.

“We first gathered at 7 am in the Nagar Ground in U Oattama Road and held a procession in two cars through the town and a prayer ceremony at Kantkawtaw Pagoda. We held the prayer ceremony at the pagoda because the pagoda is very close to the office of the Shwe gas project in our town”, said the youth leader.

Their campaign has also coincided with the global campaign against the Shwe gas project that is scheduled to be held today (1st of March) by the Thailand-based Shwe Gas Movement.

The youth said local authorities who include Kyaukpru’s district and township administrators, police and military intelligence followed and interrogated them about their campaign while they were holding the prayer ceremony in the pagoda and inspected the licenses of the cars that transported them for their procession.

“The authorities asked us what our next plans were, and then we told them that we have no other plan other than to peacefully demand a share of rights and benefits from Arakan’s Shwe Gas for Arakan state and that what we want are also featured on our t-shirts and banners”, he said.

The youth said that they have no intention to disturb or suspend the project, but they were asking what the local peoples should have or get from the project in their home region.

“We can say our campaign is widely supported by the whole population of the town because we have seen many people unusually wearing our campaign t-shirts everywhere around the town today”, said the youth.

Anger and dissatisfaction over the Shwe Gas Project have been growing among the local residents in Arakan State since the Burmese regime announced that it has already planned to export 90 percent of the gas from the project to China through the pipeline and to supply the remaining 10 percent of the gas to the industries in Mandalay and Magwe Divisions in central Burma.

Because of this the local people have been rising to voice concerns and call for their rights and share of benefits from the project in their home region following the regime announcement that has totally neglected to utilize any portion of the gas from the project for their regional development.

The Burmese regime will start to export the natural gas from the Shwe offshore gas fields block A-1 and A-3 to China through the pipeline from 2013 and will earn an estimated $29 billion USD from the gas exports over 30 years.