Shan groups claim Burma Army using landmines and brute force to secure oil and gas projects

More than 1,000 villagers have fled in the face of new operations by the Burma Army against the Shan State Army-North (SSA-N), said the Shan Human Rights Foundation.

“Atrocities by Burmese troops in a new military operation against the SSA-North have caused over 1,000 villagers, from 16 villages in Tangyan, to flee from their homes during the past two weeks.” The groups said in a statement released to the media.

The SHRF also reported that there had been armed clashes and that Burma Army units had been laying landmines and accused the Burma Army of of killing, raping and looting.

Burma Campaign UK, a human rights advocacy group, has urged the European Union to refrain from lifting further sanctions on Burma citing the deteriorating situation in Shan State.

“There is no doubt that there have been dramatic changes in Burma in the past two years, and that there is opportunity for further change which must be encouraged. However, European Union members have a tendency to highlight the positives while ignoring some important and harsh realities on the ground.” The group said.

“A careful balance needs to be struck between encouragement and continued pressure of various kinds. The European Union is not getting that balance right.”

The European Union is currently reviewing its policy on Burma, including whether to continue with the suspension of EU sanctions or to lift them. The final decision is set for the 22nd of April.

Meanwhile Shan community groups called for China gas and oil pipelines be removed from its lands.

The Northern Shan Farmers’ Committee has submitted demands to Burma’s government calling for China’s oil and gas pipelines to be removed from their lands immediately, citing rights abuses, poor construction and safety fears, according to Shan Community Based Organisations.

The Shan CBOs include the Shan Human Rights Foundation, Shan Women’s Action Network, Shan Youth Power, Shan Sapawa Environmental Organisation, Shan State Organisation, Shan State Development Foundation, and the Shan Youth Network Group.

Representatives of the 10,000 strong Northern Shan Farmers’ Committee delivered their demands to the Shan State Parliament in Taunggyi, urging the removal of the trans-Burma pipelines before they become operational next month.

A third of the 800-kilometer pipelines track across northern Shan State through almost 2,000 acres of forests and farmlands. Villages had their water sources cut off, and construction vehicles damaged roads and caused fatal accidents, the Northern Shan Farmers Committee said.

Shan farmers claim that they have been forced into accepting unfair and unequal amounts of compensation. Farmers in Hsipaw claim that they received only a quarter of the compensation given to those in Namkham for their rice fields.

Even more worrying for farmers was the potential for deadly leaks near their homes. Holes were already appearing in the pipelines and had only been fixed with rubber patches, which would have a hard time withstanding the pressure of billions of cubic metres of gas and oil, local community groups reported.

“We feel like a time-bomb has been placed under our homes,” said Nang Mwe Hseng from Namkham. “Not only have our lands been taken without our consent, but our lives are now under threat.”

Fighting between the Burma Army and Kachin, Ta-ang and Shan resistance troops continues along the pipelines in northern Shan State, and villagers fear increased militarization and rights abuses by Burmese troops once the gas and oil start flowing.

According to a report by the Shan Human Rights Group, the pipelines, which will bring gas from the Bay of Bengal and oil from the Middle East to Yunnan, are a joint venture between the state-owned China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) and Myanmar Oil and Gas Enterprise (MOGE). The report entitled “Shan farmers oppose the Shwe pipelines” estimated that Burma’s government would earn US$ 29 billion from sale of gas to China over 30 years.

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