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NEWS UPDATES Asean Affairs  25 October 2010

Myanmar oil fire kills 14

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At least 14 people have been killed and 58 more injured at an oil well fire in central Myanmar, an official in the military-ruled country said Monday.

Authorities were battling to put out the blaze, which broke out on Sunday near Pakokku town in the Magway region.

"At least 14 people were killed and 58 other injured so far during the incident," said the official, who did not want to be named. "There could be more casualties." Myanmar is rich in natural resources including oil and gas.

But nearly a third of the population lives below the poverty line, according to World Bank figures, as the junta and its associates exploit raw materials for their own benefit. The resources are a major target for energy-hungry Asian economies such as China, India and Thailand.

Oil giants Total of France and Chevron of the United States are two of the biggest Western companies in Myanmar and have faced criticism from rights groups for their dealings with the regime.

Myanmar is due to hold its first election in 20 years on November 7 but Western nations have said the vote will not be credible unless detained democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi and other opposition figures are freed.

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