DVB Multimedia Group

Arakan petition calls for local control of resources

The Shwe gas pipeline, on Burma's Arakan coast, pumps offshore natural gas to Yunnan, China. (Photo: Shwe Gas Movement)

Arakanese civil society group the Arakan Natural Resources and Environmental Network (ANREN) said on Monday that it had collected more than 300,000 signatures on a petition demanding that the government allow the Arakanese people to manage the state’s natural resource extraction.

At a press conference in the Yuzana Hotel in Rangoon, the group said that Arakanese people, despite living in a region with an abundance of natural resources, enjoy none of the profits of extractive operations based there.

“Arakan State has an abundance of natural resources, in the earth, sea, and forests. We have marble deposits in Nayputaung, and offshore, there is the very lucrative Shwe Gas project, which is profiting the country enormously,” said Kyi Tun, a leading ANREN committee member.

“Despite this, the Arakanese people do not get anything from these natural resource extraction projects. We are giving our resources, but not getting anything back,” he added.

The petition includes signatures collected in 17 townships around the state from the beginning of June to the end of August.

“We should get to decide whether to sell all these resources away or not,” said Kyi Tun. “As the natives of the land, all the land and resources here should belong to us on the principle of federalism.”

According to a statement released by the group, there are currently 25 onshore and offshore oil and gas blocks in Arakan State. It added that the administration of former president Thein Sein agreed in the 2013-14 fiscal year to allow foreign companies to work on nine offshore plots without the consent of the Arakanese people.

The foreign companies approved to work the plots are US-based Chevron and Conocophillips, Anglo-Dutch multinational Royal Dutch Shell PLC, Norway-based Statoil, the UK’s Ophir Energy, Singapore-based BG Asia Pacific Pte. Ltd. and Japan’s Mitsui Oil Exploration Co., Ltd.

ANREN also said the people of Arakan State have had to suffer from the impact of resource-extraction projects, such as land confiscations, human rights violations and environmental destruction.