Written by U Ne Oo on 1998-02-20
Dr U Ne Oo
18 Shannon Place
Adelaide SA 5000
March 6, 1998.
Prime Minister Chuan Leekpai
Office of the Prime Minister
Nakhorn Pathom Road
Bangkok 10300, Thailand.
Dear Prime Minister:
I should like to draw your attention to the issues surrounding the Thailand-Burma gas pipeline and also to the situation of Burma's ethnic minority refugees in Thailand. Regarding the Thailand-Burma gas pipeline project, I am particularly concerned about the possibility of large amount of revenue flowing into the hands of Burmese military junta. Reports indicate that the Petroleum Authority of Thailand (PTT), together with Unocal/TOTAL group, has a contract with Burma for the purchase of natural gas starting on 1 July 1998. It has also been reported that in light of the possible delay in the construction of the pipeline, the PTT may have to pay some penalty fees or advanced payments to the Burmese side (report enclosed).
Firstly, I should like to point out to the Prime Minister and Petroleum Authority of Thailand that the contract which PTT had signed with Burmese military junta after Burma's general election in May 1990 is considered to be an illegal contract. The contract is also non-constitutional from Burma's point of view since the SLORC, a signatory to that contract, did not in anyway observe the Constitution of Burma. Therefore, the State of Burma, at any given time, will have no obligation to observe the terms of contract signed by the SLORC. This point is deserving our attention especially because of the long term nature of this gas pipeline contract.
To remedy these problems, the Petroleum Authority of Thailand should re-write their contract with the Executive Committee of National League for Democracy, who are of legitimate representatives of Burma. Any penalty fees concerning the delay in the construction of pipeline should be waived and no advanced payments to the Burma side should be made by the PTT. In fact, if the PTT insists on making any payment - either in the form of penalty or advanced gas purchases - to the military junta, it will be considered as illegal and improper act of PTT and will likely to face in- to the military junta, it will be considered as illegal and improper act of PTT and will likely to face international legal challenges.
I especially should like to emphasize that the Burmese concerns regarding this pipeline project principally have been to prevent large amount of revenue flowing into the hand of Burmese military. We, the Burmese people, otherwise are very happy to see the Thais utilizing such resources from Burma in the way of helping the world's environment and to see all companies thriving from the incomes. On this note, I should also like to register with the Prime Minister about our intention to divert the money from the Burma's share of the sale of natural gas to our refugee and humanitarian programs in the near future.
Secondly, I respectfully urge the Prime Minister to grant refugee status, on a group basis, to all refugees living in the camps. This will provide the necessary legal framework to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees to solve Burma's refugee problem. We are very much aware that Thailand currently is having difficulties to cope with large numbers of illegal migrant wh large numbers of illegal migrant workers from Burma. I should like to highlight about the fact that the Burma's refugee problem, in the context of Burma's internal politics, must be viewed as the core of illegal migrant workers' problem in Thailand. Therefore, we can make improvements to these displacement situation only by solving the refugee problem as a starter. In the mean time, I appeal the Prime Minister and Thai authorities to conduct the deportations of these illegal workers from Burma as humanely as possible in accordance with international human rights norms.
In connection with the construction of gas pipeline, there has been concerns raised by the Thai environmentalists about possible damages to natural forests in Thailand. I believe that these forests, no matter they be in Burma or in Thailand, are important to the human-kind and therefore deserving of our care and protection. Therefore, I respectfully made an additional appeal to the Prime Minister to look into those issues raised by the Thai environmentalists.
In closing, I tharonmentalists.
In closing, I thank the Prime Minister for your kind attention to these matters. I also thank the Royal Thai Government for continuing to provide refuge to the Burmese refugees and displaced people in Thailand.
Yours respectfully and sincerely
Sd. U Ne Oo.
PLEASE ALSO SEND YOUR APPEAL TO:
Hon. Laxanachantron Laohaphan
Ambassador, Royal Thai Embassy
111 Empire Circuit
Yarralumla, ACT 2600
Appeals regarding Yadana gas pipeline project
s pipeline project 1. The Yadana gas pipeline project has been controversial on many fronts. In Burma, the pipeline was done by using slave-labour and by repressing the local minority population. The local population on the side of Burma are still under pressures to keep calm by a heavy presence of Burmese army around the pipeline area. Also is our memory still alive about the harsh treatments of refugees along Thai-Burmese border relating with the construction of the pipeline.
In Thailand, pipeline brougeline brought destruction to the pristine forests of high environmental values and also cause disturbances to the wild life within the area.
2. There are also issues surrounding with the delay of the project. One in which of great concern to us are the possibility of the payments to the Burmese military government. The details of the terms of contract agreement between Burmese military government, the Petroleum Authority of Thailand(PTT) and Unocal/TOTAL group are not fully disclosed to the public. Any clic. Any contract of this nature, surely, will be complex. However, there are inconsistent interpretation, of which highly susceptible to manipulation, frequently been put forward by PTT officials regarding with penalty/advance payment to the Burmese side.
3. We would need clarification on the comment that the "PTT still must pay certain amount of money to the Burmese government even if Thailand is not ready to receive any gas delivery from Burma". Why should PTT be giving any money in advance, apart fr, apart from the penalty payment to the Burmese side ? (see following 18/2/98 report by the Nations)
4. From our perspective, any contract PTT has made with military government of Burma is also illegal in nature. The State of Burma, at any given time, will have no obligation to observe the terms of agreement made by PTT. Equally, the PTT should not have to observe the terms of agreement made with illegitimate military junta.
5. The best option is PTT and Unocal/TOTAL group to re-write their contract w contract with Executive Committee of National League for Democracy. Any penalty payment for the delay of the pipeline should be waived; and no payment in advance should be made for gas purchase from Burma.
6. Our principal interest in this matter is to prevent any revenue, amounting large or small, flowing into the hand of Burmese military. Furthermore, we are interested in using such money from sale of gas to support our refugees and refugee programs. It is appropriate that those monies be used for our Karen and Mon refugees living around that area. Therefore, it is a highly appropriate that the Royal Thai Government grant refugee status to those who are in the camps in Thailand.
6. I will advocate this case to Prime Minister Chuan Leekpai and our pro-democracy friends' supports to this matter are greatly appreciated.
With best regards, U Ne Oo.
Related work: 27/01/97---A letter to UNOCAL
The Nation, 19 February 1998
RATCHABURI POWER PLANT IN FOR DELAY
EGAT officials confirmed yesterday that completion of the massive Ratchaburi power plant will be delayed, threatening the country with blackouts and raising new questions about the timetable for the Yadana gas pipeline.
Siridhat Klanklamdee, Egat's assistant governor, said construction of the first gas-fired unit, which is due to burn natural gas delivered by the pipeline from Burma starting in July, is likely to be delayed by about one month because of slower-than expected progress frorogress from contractors building the plant.
However, an Egat official said the delay could last around three months because of the recent Cabinet resolution to comply with the International Monetary Fund's balanced budget policy for all state enterprises, which has forced Egat to postpone payments to suppliers and creditors for projects, including Ratchaburi.
"Amid the slowdown in electricity demand, Egat could not convince the government to complete the power plant on time," said the Egat source, who asked to remain anonremain anonymous.
The issue of Egat's financial liquidity problems was raised several days ago by the Kalayanamitra Council's Pipob Udomittipong, a pipeline critic who testified before the national committee set up to review the pipeline project. Pipob said Eeat would not be able to pay off its suppliers until the new fiscal year starts after Sept 30, and predicted the first 200 megawatt combined-cycle unit of the Ratchaburi plant will not be ready to receive gas until November.
The delay has created ne created new uncertainties for the Petroleum Authority of Thailand's pipeline project, which is currently being built through a pristine forest-area in Kanchanaburi inhabited by several rare and endemic species. Critics have called for its route to be altered, which could become more feasible now that the power plant destined to use the gas won't be ready on time.
The PTT's reaction to Egat's news yesterday was relatively mild. The PTT has in the past responded to calls by conservationists to delay the project by insisting it msting it must be completed by July 1 or the company would have to pay fines as high as Bt100 million per day.
Jira Chomhimvet, the PTT official who heads local operations for the project, said that while the PTT would indeed have to pay for the gas Burma is supposed to deliver even if the PTT can't receive it, the losses would be far less than suggested.
"We can eventually claim the gas we pay for once the power plant is finished and the country is ready to take it," Jira said. "In the end, the only money we will lose willl lose will be the interest."
The senior Egat official also disclosed yesterday that executives from Egat and the PTT will soon go to Burma to ask Burmese authorities to relax the penalty charge should the PTT be unable to receive the Burmese gas on schedule.
According to the source, the extra charge will be around Bt150--Bt170 million a month, depending on the exchange rate. He confirmed that the charge is not simply a penalty fee but rather an payment for the gas since some flexibility is allowed under the gas sales cons sales contract.
He said Egat will help the PTT convince the Burmese about the reasons why the PTT cannot receive gas on time, even though Egat is not required to pay the PTT if the power plant is delayed.
This contradicted comments made at the pipeline committee meeting by Egat's Siridat, who said Egat had signed a "take-or-pay" agreement with the PTT, and so must pay for the gas even if it cannot take it.
Siridat said postponement of the commissioning of the Ratchaburi power plant will cause electricity brownouts and blackouts, each minute of which will cost the'' country Bt1.2 million. "The economic cost will be doubled if the blackout occurs in big cities or industrial zones," he said.
Without the Ratchaburi plant, the national electricity reserve capacity in 1999 will stand at only 10.2 per cent, far lower than the 25 per cent minimum requirement. The current reserve capacity is 12 per cent, according to the assistant governor. "We are well aware of the consequences [of the delay] and are speeding up construction of ng up construction of the project to try and finish it on time," he said.
Meanwhile, the national committee reviewing the pipeline project wound up its information-gathering yesterday and will now deliberate on recommendations to offer to the prime minister next week.
Testifying on the issue of safety concerns, the PTT's Vorashai Piyasuntaravongse told the committee that the petroleum firm has already paid insurance fees - totalling US$10 million for the pre-commissioning period and US$30 million; for the post- commissioning period to protect the lives of contractors, workers and people living along the pipeline route.