RWU Stages Demonstration Against Shwe Gas in front of Chinese Embassy in Dhaka

Dhaka: The Rakhine Women’s Union, or RWU, based in Bangladesh, staged a demonstration against the Shwe Gas Project in front of the Chinese embassy in Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh, on Tuesday, calling on the Chinese government to stop the project immediately, said a spokesperson from the RWU.

Ma Saw Thiri Raymon, the group’s spokesperson, said that around 20 members of RWU gathered in front of the Chinese embassy in Dhaka at 11:30 am to stage the demonstration against the Shwe Gas Project.

“We came to the Chinese embassy to let [the Chinese and Burmese government] know our people’s desires regarding the Shwe Gas Project. We Arakanese people, owner’s of Shwe gas, want to stop the project because there is no profit for our people – it is only for foreign companies and the government. Because of this, we demanded the Chinese government stop the Shwe Gas Project immediately,” said Ma Saw Thiri Raymon.

The Shwe Gas Project is being implemented by the Burmese government to export gas from the project to China through the pipeline, with completion reportedly in 2013.

The Burmese and Chinese governments are also constructing a trans-Burma oil and gas pipeline originating off the coast of Arakan State and terminating in China’s Yunnan Province, also set to come online in 2013. The project will become the country’s largest source of foreign revenue, generating USD 29 billion over 30 years.

“There are a lot of natural resources including gas, oil, and marine resources in Arakan State, but our state is the most poor in Burma. The Burmese authority is still exploiting our national resources for their own interests. Our people have not had electricity through a power grid since Burma gained independence. Even though there is a lot of gas in our state, our people have to use candles and oil pots daily instead of gas. We can not accept such discrimination by the Burmese government. So we demand the Chinese government stop the project immediately,” Ms. Saw Thiri Raymon added.

During the demonstration, the protesters shouted out some slogans in front of the Chinese embassy, demanding a stop to the Shwe Gas Project immediately, as well as the withdrawal of Korea’s Daewoo and other foreign companies from the project.

The RWU also issued a statement on the same day, pointing out that the native Arakanese people have lost many rights for the Shwe Gas Project, and have lost not only their natural resources, but also their land and fishing waters. The RWU has demanded the Chinese government stop the project because the Arakanese people, to whom the gas rightly belongs, are not receiving any benefits.

The demonstration ended peacefully around 12:30 pm without any harm, despite very tight security in the diplomatic area.

On 7 March, 2012, U Aung Kyaw Htoo, deputy director of Burma’s energy ministry, announced that 20 percent of gas from the Shwe Gas Project will be used for domestic demand, but he did not say how much of that would be used to bring electricity to Arakan State.

The Burmese government previously had no plans to supply electricity to Arakan State , but it was learned that the government is now planning to supply electricity to the state through the national power grid using a USD 65 million loan from India.