source: ParisMatch - Article: Julie Montagard
Burma is a bus ride constantly interrupted by checkpoints gathering. | Photo Julie Montagard
On the west coast, in Arakan State, the Burmese population attends muzzled heist nature reserves. No benefit to it and with serious consequences for the environment. Here, India and China are a fierce war to win huge markets: gas, oil, infrastructure ... and the ruling military unscrupulous reap their share of profit.
The beach was sacked, and the next monsoon we face a disaster. "Despite the lock word in Burma, the young student Phru Gri explodes with anger. The soft Sittwe, capital of Arakan (one of the seven states of the Union of Myanmar), became the Sittwe mutilated. To this day, from View Point, end of a spit of land, we discovered one of the most beautiful seascapes in the Southeast Asia. Where the sweet waters flow into large Kaladan salty depths of the seabed of the Gulf of Bengal, a sandy beach and gray stretched out of sight. Today, against the backdrop of two islands silhouetted on a slightly hazy horizon, an endless stream of trucks and tractors hollow and carries the sand. Bins do not go away. Just a few kilometers. On a huge project: the construction by India of a deepwater port.
But why destroy this range, hitherto preserved, rather than look elsewhere for materials? Dr. Mya Min, navy sweater over longyi fine tile, as are almost all men of the country, said in a low voice: "Pots of wine, of course! A Rakhaing * like us, but in cahoots with the authorities obtained the contract against 4,000 kyat (a few euros). Pittance, but offset by 500 kyat it collects any load of sand and 1000 by large truck. Given the back-and-forth day and night, it's a bargain! "
Damage to View Point are yet only a small taste of what awaits the territories of two western states of Burma, Arakan and Chin State. Arakan became a challenge for international lusts for a series of offshore drilling revealed in 2004, the presence of huge gas reserves off the city of Sittwe. Gas and oil are, after opium and precious stones, the main source of income for the junta.
19 foreign companies ... and war
According to the Network of information and documentation for sustainable development and international solidarity (Ritimo) Burmese gas exports increased by almost 30% between 2007 and 2008, representing 43% of total exports during the year. Similar explosion in the hydrocarbon sector since, according to the Myanmar Ministry of National Planning and Economic Development, foreign investment in the oil sector for the same period tripled. Also according to official sources, 13 foreign companies, including Total, were involved in 2008 in oil and gas projects in Burma. They are 19 now. Between these global corporations, it is a fierce war. When the main gas field is discovered at Shwe off Sittwe, Indian companies, Chinese and Korean are rushing to get the concession. Willing to invest huge sums.
It is ultimately the Korean group Daewoo wins that operate 100 billion cubic meters of gas. South Korea's Daewoo resell the gas to China and forward pipeline to Yunnan. To join the province of South-West China, the pipeline will cross the whole of northern Burma. It will be coupled with a pipeline that will transport the oil that China imports from Africa and the Middle East, thus avoiding the Malacca Strait ** between Malaysia and Sumatra. Shwe Gas, it will be these two pipelines built side by side on nearly 1200 kilometers to the nose of the Burmese people, which itself undergoes restrictions. "When I think we do not have electricity - for the few people who have access to - a few hours a day," protested Aung Aung, a resident of Mrauk U, the second city of the Arakanese state. "How can our leaders they export energy when our country needs it so much ..."
Expropriation, confiscation, extortion
The construction of the two pipelines generates much concern. Caritas (Catholic Relief International network) and Shwe Gas Movement, two non-governmental organizations warned: "Already 13,200 soldiers of the Burmese army had taken position on the edge of the 50 meter wide road, raising fears of indigenous, such as Historically, land confiscation, forced displacement or forced labor, not to mention the abuse caused by the soldiers. "According to the NGO EarthRights International (ERI), the Shwe project - the largest ever in Burma - will report to the junta for nearly 48 billion dollars (32 billion euros) over thirty years.
As for India, in April 2009 it won the contract for the construction of a deep water port in Sittwe (delivery in 2013). The geopolitical reasons: competition with China, defending its commercial interests, dramatic increase of its energy needs, development of its armed provinces bordering Burma movements, all of which are to this state along the Bay of Bengal strategic for it. This port will indeed also enable India to connect the ports of the eastern coast - Chennai (Madras) and especially Calcutta - the Asian market. And also open up its North-East States, because this project - Kaladan Multi-Modal Transport (KMMT) - also includes the domestication of the Kaladan river to river port Paletwa and building a highway to India's Northeast.
A new source of income for the junta
The offices of the Indian group Essar moved to Sittwe, on Strand Road, near the future port, where every day people flock to the heart of the central market which is full of manufactured goods made in China (as Delhi dream made into in India through its future cargo). Their doors are open but can not initiate a conversation with employees. A "we have nothing to say" stop all trade with faces as locked as soldiers Tatmadaw, the Burmese army. "A major component of the contract, said the spokesman of the Indian Essar newspaper" The Telegraph ", the construction of the port of Sittwe help infrastructure development in Burma, which is an opportunity for this country and will create jobs. "Adding, as if it was not obvious:" It will also help the Burmese government to make lots of money. "The contract is valued at 3.42 billion rupees (51 million euros), according to Mizzima News, a news agency in New Delhi founded by Burmese exiles. Arakan Rivers Network is indignant: "India brings a new source of revenue to the Burmese junta, seeming to ignore the discrediting of the government for its lack of democracy. "
Pollution and deforestation
For now, the port of Sittwe can only accommodate ships of small tonnage (2000 3 000 tonnes) and retains its activity in a traditional decor intact. In the morning, long boats unload their cargo back men assaulted by a mob came to source and brokers raising the stakes fish spread on the ground. A vision came from the depths of time, soon wiped out by new infrastructure and heavy tonnage vessels. Rakhaing a businessman who - as is often the makers - has swapped the traditional longyi for pants to Western says: "I agree that this project started, because we need a large port we open trade international. But, he says, lowering his voice, I regret that the government of our country is not interested in environmental and ecological consequences of this huge project. "And he adds bitterly:" Our leaders do leave because they have ample leg fat! "
As he and the young Phru Gri, or Dr. Mya Min, many are worrying about the consequences of this enormous KMMT project on the environment and the already fragile populations of these Arakan and Chin states, many of which live the resources of the river. Arakan Oil Watch (AOW), an independent non-governmental organization based in Thailand, denounces "the thousands of acres of land already confiscated, low irregular wages for local workers, the lack of participation in decision making, the deployment of troops and the lack of income for local people. " What to add, according to several associations, pollution of marine areas, accelerating deforestation and logging of teak.
Operated on their own land
Meanwhile, many of the people live on a daily income of less than 2 euros. And poorest of the poor, Muslims from Bangladesh at the time of the English colonization derive the toughest tasks. We find, therefore, quite naturally, on this site, shoveling into day or night, to carry on the back the basic materials of the future port, while in another part of the city, but for the same project, their mothers and sisters are clearing rubble brought from Lemro river in heavy and aging vessels. Throughout the day, topped by a heavy cart-load, they come and go from the boat to roughly square consists of four wooden planks, which "calibrates" pays them 2,500 kyat (2.20 euros) when in completed four. A pooled, not individual income. The team can vary from 6 to 8 or 10 women. The amount itself remains unchanged.
* Name of the inhabitants of Arakan.
Narrow ** sea passage attended by more than 50,000 ships a year, carrying a quarter of the goods traded in the world and currently 80% of the 1.5 billion barrels of imported oil annually by China.