Activists gathered in major cities around the world yesterday to demonstrate against Indian and South Korean support for the Shwe Gas Project and the military regime in Burma. Oil and gas corporations in the two countries are in partnership with the Burmese military to develop a natural gas pipeline in the Shwe region of western Burma. Not only would the project generate profits for the Burmese military upwards of US$17 billion, but it would also directly result in widespread human rights abuses and environmental degradation. In accompaniment, the Shwe Gas Movement issued a letter to the South Korean President.
The key argument against the Shwe Gas Project (summed up in the “No Guns for Gas” slogan) is that business partnerships for natural resource exploitation and the geopolitics arising from energy needs in the region have directly increased the Burmese military’s access to weapons – weapons that the junta in turn uses to further terrorize and enslave ethnic minorities in Burma. Last October ERI detailed South Korea’s relationship with Burma’s military in an articleentitled “Money, Guns, and Gas.”
More recently, the media has also started to purport such a link. The Washington Times recently reported on the Indian government’s supply of arms to the Burmese junta as a political strategy to counter China’s growing influence in the region as well as to foster friendly economic ties with its energy-rich neighbor. Last week, Asian media outlet, The Chosun Ilbo, also drew attention to the rising importance of Burmese energy diplomacy between Korean-owned firms, Daewoo and KoGAS, and the Chinese government.
Furthermore, in a statement issued last week, Arvind Ganesan of Human Rights Watch (HRW) was keen to point out that “the Burmese army is notorious for using violence and coercion to secure areas slated for major investment projects and commonly demands forced labor to build associated infrastructure.”