Burmese Junta Confiscates Public Oil Wells and Refinery for Chinese Company

Kyukpru: Burmese military authorities have recently seized publicly-owned oil wells that were dug by hand and a refinery on oil-rich Rambree Island in western Burma’s Arakan State for the benefit of Chinese company, reports a local resident.

The resident said a special team that was sent from the new Burmese capital Naypyidaw and local police forces confiscated the hand-dug oil wells along with a refinery in the areas of Renandaung and Munprun under Kyaukpru Township on 10 November, 2009.

“Villagers were ordered to vacate all traditional hand-dug oil wells from their own lands near their villages by a special team led by Brigadier General Myo Thant and local police officer Hla Tun on November 10. They were also told by the authority during the confiscation that no one is allowed to operate drilling in those sites as they have already been leased to CNOOC Ltd.,” he said on condition of anonymity.

The confiscated oil wells are from Kalarba, Chaungfyar, and Chaungwa Villages in the Renandaung area, as well as from Ngaoak, Kyauksalae, and Wamyaung Villages in the Munprun area.

The villager said that one refinery from Munprun Village, which was owned by a local villager named U Nyein Chan Maung, was also confiscated along with the wells. “The [authorities] have also ordered the villagers not to dig oil wells on any lands, and anyone who doesn’t follow their orders will face legal action and be jailed,” he said, adding that no villager was compensated for their confiscated property.

Farmlands around the evicted hand-dug oil wells are also being targeted for further confiscations by the authorities, the source added.

Most of the residents on Arakan’s Rambree Island have been dependent on their traditional oil wells as a main source of income for ages. Their livelihoods have been in danger since 2005, when a consortium led by China National Offshore Oil Company Ltd. arrived to explore for onshore and offshore oil on their island.

According to a report by environmental and human rights group formed by Arakanese, Arakan Oil Watch, the Burmese military regime has been seizing or destroying their lands and traditional oil wells with little or no compensation for the benefit of Chinese companies.

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