Maday Island Deep-Sea Port No Boon to Locals
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Maday Island Deep-Sea Port No Boon to Locals

By KHIN OO THAR Tuesday, March 1, 2011

A ceremony is held to mark the start of construction of the China section on the Sino-Burmese oil and gas pipeline project in China's Yunnan province. (Photo: Xinhua)

Until recently, Maday Island on the coast of the Bay of Bengal in Burma's western Arakan State was a virtually unknown and unspoiled island possessing both natural beauty and resources that provided a simple living for about 2,400 residents. But that changed in 2009, when Burma's junta chief Snr-Gen Than Shwe and China's Vice President Xi Jinping inked an agreement to build a deep-sea port on the island that will be used by China to import crude oil from Africa and the Middle East and natural gas from Arakan State.

China currently imports crude oil from Africa and the Middle East that meet 80 percent of its fuel needs through the Strait of Malacca. Consequently, it has faced huge transportation costs, long transportation times and potential threats from pirates launching raids in the Strait. The completion of the Maday Island deep-sea port will allow China to bypass the Strait and save time and money.

In August 2007, the Burmese regime announced that it will sell gas to China from blocks A-1 and A-3 of the offshore gas fields located off the Arakan Coast that were discovered in December 2003. In June 2008, a Memorandum of Understanding was signed between the China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC), the regime and other partners for the sale and transport of gas to China. An export gas agreement was then signed on December 24 of that year under which Burma agreed to supply China with gas for at least 30 years.

According to the Shwe Gas Movement, which is made up of individuals and groups who are concerned about the overall impact of the extraction of natural gas in Burma, the sale of gas will provide the junta with an estimated US $1.2 billion annually.

Apart from the deep-sea port, Chinese companies and Korea's Daewoo International Company have begun construction of oil and natural gas reservoirs and gas refinery projects on Maday Island and in Kyaukpru (also known as Kyauk Phyu), the pleasant port city known as the “Second Singapore” among Arakanese people that is located about 13 kilometers from the island.

In addition, the IGE Company, owned by Nay Aung, the son of former Industry 1 Minister Aung Thaung, has been granted a contract for the construction of gas pipelines from Maday Island to China.

 According to Arakan Oil Watch (AOW), an independent non-governmental organization that is an active member of the Shwe Gas Movement, the $1.5 billion oil pipeline, carrying 12 million tons of crude oil per year, will travel the 1,100 kilometers from Maday Island to China's Kunming city through central Burma. The natural gas pipeline will run parallel to the oil pipeline and extend even further, from Kunming to Guizhou Province and the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, for a total of about 1,700 kilometers. It is expected to transport 12 billion cubic meters of natural gas to China every year.

CNPC is heading up the Maday Island deep-sea port construction project, with about 10 other Chinese companies involved under its management. In addition, The Htoo Group of Companies and Asia World, owned by Burmese business tycoons Tay Za and Tun Myint Naing, respectively, have reportedly been granted permission for the construction of some parts of the port.

According to Arakan Oil Watch, CNPC began construction of the deep-sea port and an oil reservoir on Maday Island in October 2010 and will finish the projects by 2013. The construction has already taken its toll on the island's mountainous environment and about 2,400 residents living in six villages.

Locals said farm lands are being confiscated on Maday Island in order to build the port and refinery and in Kyaukpru in order to build an international airport, hotels, golf courses and hospitals. In addition, about 500 acres of farmland near Gangawtaw Pagoda in Kyaukpru were confiscated for the construction of a gas refinery.

“Five mountains on Maday Island have already been demolished and many plots of garden land have already been confiscated and cleared. The confiscation of farmland continues as necessary,” said a resident of Ywarma Village on Maday Island.

“Farming and gardening are the main businesses for country folks like us.

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malihkrang Wrote:
We must ban this project until democratic civilian government rules in Burma.

Time to act every Burmese people to protest by using any means necessary now.

tocharian Wrote:
The Chinese will control their pipeline and look where it is: runs through the heart of Burma! We will soon see thousands of Chinese "technicians" and "military advisors" along this whole stretch supervising Burmese slave labour. They will also use the seaports on the Bay of Bengal for refueling their ships including warships. It's part of their strategy to control sea-lanes called "string of pearls". Burma has become a pawn and a vassal-state of China (just look at the red and yellow balloons and flags in the photo: so Chinese!).

Given the internal conflicts and the rampant corruption, it was a piece of cake for Peking to take control of "Mian Dian" (Chinese for Burma). They bribed the tayoke pay min (the King who sold the country to China), Than Shwe. The future of Burma now lies in Chinese hands, even if there are some minor shuffles at the top. I'm even more ashamed than angry!

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