11/05/2009, 00.00
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Beijing in support of the Burmese junta: work on a new oil pipeline begins

770 km long from the port of Manday up to Yunnan. It will allow China to avoid the pirates of the Straits of Malacca. Thai activists fear use of forced labour.
Beijing (AsiaNews) - The China National Petroleum Corp. (CNPC) has begun the construction of an oil pipeline crossing Myanmar to speed up deliveries to China of Middle Eastern oil that arrives in the former Burma via the Indian Ocean.

The pipeline of over 770 kilometres and with a capacity of 84 million barrels per year is part of a plan for extensive investments in Myanmar that Beijing is implementing with the aim of gaining greater access to foreign oil and gas, which are essential to feed the its economic boom.

The pipeline will connect the Burmese port of Manday Island, on the Indian Ocean, with Ruili, a town in Yunnan - the south-western province of China - via Mandalay. Announcing the start of the project, CNPC, however, failed to add details on the estimated length of time to carry out work. Once completed, Beijing will thus avoid the passage of its precious energy resources through the Straits of Malacca, between Indonesia and Malaysia, which a pirate infested waters.

The CNPC project has rekindled the controversy over Chinese investment in infrastructure in Burma: rather than contribute to the effective development of the country, these go to bankroll the violent military regime that for 60 years has ruled over the former Burma.

China is the largest foreign investor in Myanmar and the closest ally of the government of the generals, condemned by Western powers for its harsh repression of political opposition and its failure to respect basic human rights. Thai activists also denounce that the construction of the pipeline will lead to the use of forced labour, the expropriation of lands and other abuses by the military against civilians.

But not only CNPC does business in Myanmar. Other state-owned companies such as National Offshore Oil Co., have exploration projects and are expected to be major consumers of natural gas coming from new offshore fields.

Beijing has already built a pipeline connecting its with the oil fields of Kazakhstan to the northwest and is working on another project to access Russian oil from Siberia.

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