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KOREA: Daewoo-Burma arms trade targetted

Bangkok Post
March 26th, 2007

Protests against Korea's Daewoo corporation for allegedly selling military equipment to Myanmar's army government in exchange for energy contracts took place in 15 countries Monday.

The Indian government was also targeted for allegedly selling guns and tanks to the dictatorial regime to secure energy supplies.

In Bangkok, Asian and Western activists picketed the Korean embassy demanding that both Daewoo and India withdraw from deals worth up to 17 billion dollars in taxes and fees to the ruling military, which ignored an opposition election victory in 1990.

"International standards are being ignored and there is no public participation in these gas projects. Real participation can only come through a sound, democratically-elected government in Burma," said Wong Aung, the Global Coordinator of the Shwe Gas Movement.

Fourteen Korean executives, including Daewoo International President Lee Tae-yong, were indicted in South Korea in December for illegally selling military hardware to Myanmar.

Daewoo told the court earlier it had no criminal intention in selling the equipment to Myanmar, and had ultimately acted in the interests of Korea. The case was adjourned until April 12.

Daewoo International, along with three other Korean and Indian corporations, are stakeholders in the Shwe Natural Gas Project, an offshore field that may hold up 10 trillion cubic feet of gas. The likely buyers were India, China or Thailand who could be supplied by pipeline.

A conversion plant could send liquid natural gas to Korea and Japan. All these parties, keen to secure energy supplies in an uncertain world, are currently negotiating for this gas source.

Opponents of the deal, mostly Burmese exile groups, in India and Thailand, say both India and Daewoo used military sales to curry favour with the regime.

"What better way to please a military regime than to give it weapons? To date, India has supplied the military regime in Burma with field guns, mortars, surveillance equipment, aircraft, tanks, air-defense guns, and other military hardware," said the Shwe Gas Movement, in a press release.

In the Indian capital New Delhi, many Burmese activists staged a demonstration to protest against the Indian support for the "brutal" military regime.

"Since the discovery of natural gas in Burma in 2004, the Indian government has increased arms sales to the junta," said Kim, who uses only one name, the coordinator of Shwe Gas Movement-India.

"We demand that New Delhi immediately stop the arms' supplies as well as investments which are helping the military regime to oppress people," he added.

The gas project is likely to become the biggest single foreign exchange earner for a military government harassed by Western sanctions.

The release said construction of pipelines would also cause "inevitable" human rights abuses because the military habitually use forced labour, uproot local communities at will and confiscate land whenever it is required for military use.




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