BANGKOK, March 22 Myanmar's civilian government
has made no attempt to show transparency in its lucrative oil
and gas dealings despite moves to improve other aspects of the
economy and a wave of political reforms, an environmental and
rights group said on Thursday.
Details of how much revenue the country is making from oil
and gas, its biggest source of income, is being hidden from the
public and kept off the national budget, just as it was under
the military junta that ceded power last year, according to the
Arakan Oil Watch group.
"Military leaders have been exporting these resources for
over a decade, leaving the people to suffer from chronic energy
shortages and some of the lowest development indicators in the
world," the group said in a report titled "Burma's Resource
The group has compiled a detailed study, citing information
from former state officials now living overseas, of how much was
being made and where revenue was being kept.
The information could not be verified by Reuters.
The group alleged some revenue from gas exports was being
paid by foreign firms into offshore bank accounts of the
military-owned Union of Myanmar Economic Holding Limited
(UMEHL), circumventing the Finance Ministry.
Oil and gas income is expected to rise significantly as
Myanmar's neighbours - from China and India to Thailand and
Bangladesh - exploit its natural gas fields, hoping they can
feed their own fast-growing energy needs.
The group said the secrecy and lack of accountability made
for a "perfect enabling environment for corruption" in Myanmar,
which is also known as Burma and is one of the world's most
The group also denounced the lack of information over how
much oil and gas companies paid to the government in royalties,
profit-sharing, signing bonuses, fees and taxes, plus profits
from joint ventures.
It estimated that revenue from natural gas exports from its
M9 block had netted a profit of $3.86 billion, while the Shwe
Gas pipeline to southern China, which is due to be completed in
2013, would earn state firms $29 billion over a 30-year period,
plus an annual transit fee of $150 million.
Myanmar has invited firms to bid for its onshore and
offshore oil and gas reserves. The process has been dominated by
Asian companies, with Western firms held back by sanctions,
although these could start to be lifted in coming months,
according to diplomats.
In January, its Energy Ministry pegged natural gas reserves
at 22.5 trillion cubic feet, almost double the 11.8 trillion
estimated by oil major BP last year.
In its biggest energy tender in years, Myanmar awarded 10 of
18 onshore oil and gas blocks to eight firms in January, with
Malaysia's Petronas and Thailand's PTT Exploration and
Production snapping up two deals each. Another tender
for six onshore oil and gas bloc is expected soon.
(Reporting by Martin Petty; Editing by Alan Raybould and Robert