November 18, 2009: About 50 traditional hand-dug oil wells and 10 acres of land were confiscated on Nov. 14 by the Burmese authorities in Kyuakphyu Township in Arakan State in western Burma, according to local sources.
The sources told The Irrawaddy on Tuesday that the landowners are afraid they will not receive any compensation from the Burmese authorities. Police in Kyuakphyu Township told them that the order to confiscate property came from Naypyidaw.
Maung Phyu, one of the landowners, said: “They came with guns to confiscate our property. We couldn’t say anything to them. This property is our legacy. We rely on it. We’ve lost it now, and we have no jobs.”
Land confiscation by the government is a common practice in Arakan State, according to the Arakan Rivers Network (ARN) based in Thailand.
An ARN report, “Holding Our Land,” published in February, said that 53,000 acres of land in Arakan State have been confiscated. Most of the property involved oil wells.
One Korean and two Chinese oil companies operate in Arakan State: China National Offshore Oil Company (CNOOC), the China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) and Korea Gas Corporation (KOGAS).
Local sources said they believed the confiscated land will be given to CNOOC to explore for oil on the site.
The oil companies and local landowners are often in business conflicts because oil companies promise to pay compensation after they take over land, but they don’t pay fair prices, according to the Arakan Oil Watch (AOW) based in Thailand.
Tun Thar Aung, a Burmese migrant in Mae Sot, told The Irrawaddy his land was confiscated by CNOOC. The company told him to sign a contract and it promised to pay compensation, he said, but no payment was ever made.
Land confiscation has increased in Arakan State since 2007 when authorities evicted many landowners in Kyuakphyu Township, according to AOW. About 70 villagers fled to Thailand and Malaysia after protests were made against CNOOC.
Arakan rights activists said the oil and gas projects in Arakan State have not benefited landowners or villagers, and the companies violate human rights and cause environment damage.
Meanwhile, CNPC announced on Nov. 3 that it had begun construction on the gas pipeline which will run through Burma into Yunnan Province in China. The Burmese government has agreed to sell gas to China in a contract that will provide up to US $30 billion to the Burmese government.