Myanmar group in India to lobby against gas exports

Vol 7, PW 18 (19 Nov 03) People & Policy

Opposition groups in Myanmar have joined hands to oppose the Rangoon military juntas plans to export gas to India.

A four-member team from the Arakan Gas Export Resistance Coordination Committee is in Delhi to win support for its cause with the Indian government and political parties. "We will lobby with Indian political parties and think-tanks to stop gas exports from Arakans," Kyaw Han, convenor of the coordination committee and leader of the visiting team, tells PETROWATCH.

In Delhi, the Myanmar activists plan to meet oil minister Ram Naik, foreign minister Yashwant Sinha, (Opposition) Congress party chief Sonia Gandhi, Communist Party leader D Raja and Communist Party (Marxist) leader Somnath Chatterjee. Four legitimate political parties have seats on the Myanmar anti-gas exports committee: Arakans National Party, Arakans Peoples Front and Arakans Communist Party and the Arakans Students Youth Front.

But the committee also claims the support of two underground groups: the National Unity Party of Arakans, representing the Buddhist Rakhine population, and the Arakan Rohingya Nationalist Organisation, representing the Muslim Rohingyas. Kyaw Han said gas exports to India should only be permitted when the military junta steps down.

"The junta will use profits from the sale of gas to buy more weapons and crush the Arakanese movement for self-rule, he said. We have to stop the gas exports from Arakans at all costs." What if India ignores the protest and imports Myanmar gas "We will visit Bangladesh and lobby extensively so that the proposed pipeline to eastern India from the Arakans through Bangladesh does not materialise." In Bangladesh, the anti-gas exports team plans to exploit adverse political sentiment against India by meeting Prime Minister Begum Zia, (opposition) Awami League chief Sheikh Hasina and others.