About 600 Myanmar protesters on Thursday demanded compensation from the Sino-Myanmar operators of dual pipelines in western Myanmar’s Rakhine state for land they confiscated for the massive and controversial project.
The U.S. $2.5 billion Shwe pipeline project and deep-water port, which transports oil and natural gas from the country’s offshore reserves overland to China, has been dogged by complaints about little or no land compensation along with a loss of livelihoods for local fishermen.
The protesters from Ann township in Kyaukphyu district demanded that Chinese state-owned oil company China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC), or PetroChina, and Myanmar’s state-owned Myanma Oil & Gas Enterprise (MOGE) pay them for land they had to give up for the pipeline project.
“Because of this gas pipeline, many villagers lost their land, and CNPC and MOGE haven’t taken any responsibility for it,” said protest leader Zaw Win Lay. “That’s why we are protesting.”
The Rakhine state government promised last year that it would resolve the problem for those who lost land to the pipelines which cross 40 villages in Ann township, but it has yet to deliver on account of delays by MOGE, protesters said.
Neither the Rakhine state government nor the two companies had issued a response to the protesters as of Thursday local time.
The pipeline project spans a distance of 771 kilometers (480 miles) from Kyaukphyu in Rakhine state across central Myanmar to Kunming in southwestern China’s Yunnan province.
The first pipeline began transporting natural gas to China in July 2013, while the other one for transporting crude oil from the Bay of Bengal to China began operating in May 2017.
Other pipeline protests
It’s not the first time that hundreds of locals have protested against the project.
About 600 residents and fishermen in the deep-water port town of Kyaukphyu demonstrated last May against Chinese oil tankers moving into the area, as the operation of the long-delayed oil pipeline got under way.
Fishermen boarded more than 100 motorboats and piloted them from Kyaukphyu to Maday Island, site of CNPC’s local office, which operated the tankers.
They demanded that local officials do something to ensure their livelihoods after Myanmar’s Fisheries Department banned them from fishing in the area but allowed the tankers to operate there.
They also called on officials to deliver electricity to their homes 24 hours a day and to build communication towers, high schools, and dams that would benefit the community.
Two months later, residents and representatives from the Kyaukphyu Rural Development Organization and Kyaukphyu Fishermen’s Association complained to Yanghee Lee, the United Nations special rapporteur for human rights in Myanmar, about a lack of benefits from the project.
During one of Lee's periodic missions to Myanmar, they complained about not having enough technology and education to land jobs at the pipeline project and voiced concern about farmers and fishermen losing their land and livelihoods.
They also complained about the project operators’ failure to deliver expected job opportunities to the underdeveloped region.
Reported by Min Thein Aung for RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Khet Mar. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.