Marc Pilisuk
Who Benefits from Global Violence and War
Uncovering a Destructive System

"A change is needed from the values of the market to the values of participation and caring.... It will require us to persuade or to pressure those with great wealth and power that people along with all the other species that share our planet deserve a viable habitat and a voice in how it is to be used."

Lectures, Interviews, Articles
ZNet. December, 2007
Burma: The Government, the Protest, the Pipelines and Opium By Marc Pilisuk and Jennifer Achord Rountree, pg 2

Chevron and Total are refusing to pull out of Burma. Premier Oil pulled out of the country in 2002 following intense world pressure; its assets are now in the hands of a company based in Malaysia. Other investors in Burma's oil and gas industry include companies from Australia, the British Virgin Islands, China, India, Japan, Singapore, South Korea, Thailand, and Russia. Sales of natural gas account for the single largest source of revenue to the military government; gas exports accounted for fully half of the country's exports in 2006. The funds from these foreign investments flow directly to the government and provide the military junta with a major source of funding. Some of the funding has been for a Helicopter port to serve and protect the pipeline.

Villagers in the pipeline region live a miserable, oppressed, precarious existence, in part due to the deals made between these foreign oil and natural gas companies. Entire villages have been relocated at gunpoint, women have been raped, and children killed by Burmese military units providing security for the gas pipelines. Whole families have been forced into slave labor to construct infrastructure used by foreign oil companies. For the past fifty years, Burma's infrastructure has been ignored. The roads are in such bad repair and are so primitive, that no amount of forced labor is likely to upgrade them for adequately for use by foreign enterprise.

The pipelines cut directly through the Tenasserim rainforest, one of the largest intact rainforests in Southeast Asia, and home to diverse peoples and numerous endangered species including Asian elephants, tigers, and rhinoceroses. The pipelines have permanently destroyed the environment. Yet analysts suspect the money payable by Thailand for gas from the Yadana pipeline will probably go directly into the pockets of the military. This will further increase the inflation and poverty in Burma. The displacement of forests and farmlands by oil pipelines and military forces to protect them has become a frequently repeated pattern.

There are 45 million acres of potentially arable land in Burma. This is about 25% of the total land mass. Half of the arable land is cultivated by families who have small plots of land. It is estimated that 77% of the main source of income of rural households is agriculture. For subsistence living to occur, each farm must be approximately five acres. Of the 4.7 million farm households, over 60% had less than that. Of the rural households surveyed by the United Nations Land Development Program, 35 % were landless, 40 % owned no livestock, and 24 % owned neither land nor livestock.

Legally, all land in Burma is state owned. Use rights are given to farmers who must not leave the land idle for more than three years; otherwise the land reverts back to the state. Because farmers do not own the land, they are unable to obtain loans using the land as collateral. Instead they may only receive small loans at high interest rates. The farmer's inability to own and mortgage land has had a severe impact on agricultural production. Land tenancy results in a reduced incentive for investment or improvement in the land.

Beyond lack of ownership of land, there is an inadequate incentive structure for farmers to produce. There is a tax on the use of the land to produce rice. Also, an export tax on rice is enforced by a legal monopoly, the Myanmar Agricultural Produce Trading (MAPT), a government owned enterprise. A government monopoly also controls exports of cotton, jute, sugar and rubber. Since 1995, a decline in the growth of agriculture has resulted in static yields of crops relative to other Southeast Asian countries such as Thailand.

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