By David Stenerud
When it was known in January 1996 that Norsk Hydro and Statoil considered cooperating with the military junta to exploit gas from Yadana in Andaman sea outside of Burma, the reactions came from many directions.
The Foreign Directorate (UDI) stated that there are good reasons to keep away from the military junta.
The military junta's house arrestee, Aung San Suu Kyi, stated to TV2 at the time: "We have always looked upon Norway as one of the strongest allies of our democratic movement. I would not think that this is the right time for any Norwegian-owned company (.) to establish themselves in Burma."
The result was that Norsk Hydro and Statoil kept away. Instead it was a consortium owned by Total Fina Elf, Unocal, The Petroleum Authority of Thailand and MOGE (Myanmar Oil & Gas Enterprises) that drilled, built, laid pipelines and is now exploiting gas from the Yadana field. In the process they got blood on their hands.
Threats and violence
A French delegation of parlamentarians have concluded that the construction of the pipeline that is now transporting gas from Yadana through Burma to Thailand, was to a large extent done by forced labour. Abuse from military work leaders, as violence and threats were common. There has also been reports of raping of young women, torture and murder.
In addition, thousands that lived in the passage of the pipeline were driven from their homes. Allegations has also been presented, among others from the british workers association MEP, that civilians were being used as human minesweepers in front of the construction workers laying the pipeline.
Victims want justice
In 1996, 13 former slave labourers filed a lawsuit against the American corporation Unocal for knowingly making a profit from slave labour and violence. Early in 2000, a judge in California decided that there was no foundation for sewing Unocal, as they could not know that the Yadana pipeline was laid by slave labourers.
However, the Burmese did not give in. And on the 4th of September last year, CorpWatch.org reported that the supreme court of California, by judge Victoria Chaney, gave the refugees the green flag: There was a reason to file a suit against Unocal, and the Burmese refugees will have the opportunity to speak out their traumas in front of an American jury. But both them and Unocal must prepare themselves to go through many, long and hard rounds in several courts before a final verdict is given in the matter.
PS: Norsk Hydro does not wish to comment on the Yadana development and their own nea-contact with it.
FACTS: The Petroleum Fund and Yadana
The Norwegian Petroleum Fund, has invested 57,7 million NOK in Unocal - and 2.178 billion NOK in TotalFinaElf. In addition the fund owns stocks to the sum of 36,5 million NOK in Halliburton, who have had a central part in the construction of the disputed pipeline. The Yadana consortum is appraised to the value of 1,2 billion American dollars.
Norwatch Newsletter 3-4/02