September 10, 2009
Article from: Agence France-Presse
OIL giants Total and Chevron are propping up Burma's junta with billions of dollars hidden by the regime in Singapore, while trying to whitewash rights abuses, an environment group says.
Army security forces guarding a gas pipeline project backed by France's Total and US-based Chevron were linked to forced labour, killings, corruption and other violations, two reports by US-based EarthRights International said.
"Total and Chevron's Yadana gas project has generated $4.83 billion for the Burmese regime," one of the reports said, adding that the figures for the period 2000-2008 were the first ever detailed account of the revenues.
"The military elite are hiding billions of dollars of the peoples' revenue in Singapore while the country needlessly suffers under the lowest social spending in Asia," Matthew Smith, a principal author of the reports, said.
The junta had kept the revenues off the national budget and stashed almost all of the money offshore with Singapore's Overseas Chinese Banking Corporation (OCBC) and DBS Group (DBS), the group said.
Total was recently at the centre of controversy over its lucrative dealings with the regime, following the extension in August of the house arrest of democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi.
Total and Chevron are two of the biggest Western companies in Burma, both escaping wide-ranging sanctions imposed on the ruling junta by the US and European Union.
The group said that impact assessments of the pipeline by US-based CDA Collaborative Learning Projects, a US non-profit organisation commissioned by Total, had covered up adverse effects and abuses, the group said.
CDA "willfully participated in whitewashing Total and Chevron's impacts in Burma and their role in forced labour, killings, and other abuses," report co-author Naing Htoo said.