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16 June 2009

EarthRights says S Korea firms 'linked to Myanmar gas abuse'

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South Korea is failing to hold its corporations to account for abuses linked to natural gas development in military-ruled Myanmar, AFP quoted a report released by rights groups as saying.

The report, by EarthRights International and the Shwe Gas Movement, documents "conflicts of interest" within the government in Seoul and says South Korea is not upholding international guidelines.

The report urged the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), which meets in Paris on Tuesday, to investigate a complaint on the issue that it said the South Korean government had dismissed.

"The Korean government is failing to hold Korean corporations accountable for abuses connected to natural gas development in military ruled Burma," the groups said in a statement.

The statement said that the gas project "has already been linked to forced relocations and other human rights violations. Local people who criticized the project faced arbitrary arrest and detention."

Myanmar's ruling junta signed a deal in December with Daewoo, the Korean Gas Corporation and Indian companies to pipe gas to China from the Shwe gas project, which is developing a natural gas field in the country.

Myanmar's huge gas reserves and other natural resources are a major target for neighbouring and Asian countries which eschew the sanctions imposed by the United States and other Western nations on the country formerly known as Burma.

The two rights groups helped file a complaint in October to South Korea about alleged abuses linked to the project, saying that it violated OECD guidelines including by failing to respect international human rights law.

But Seoul rejected the complaint, the report said, adding that the Korean ministry dealing with OECD complaints also has the job of promoting overseas energy development projects.

The ministry also gave Daewoo a sizable loan to proceed with the Shwe project, while the South Korean government is also the largest stakeholder in Korean Gas Corporation, it added.

"The Shwe project should stop until the people of... Burma can genuinely participate in development decisions and realise their human rights," said Wong Aung, co-ordinator of the Shwe Gas Movement.

He said the Korean government had "conveniently dismissed" the complaint "and now the OECD must fill the gap".

Myanmar's junta is currently under renewed pressure over its trial of democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi.


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