This week, Myanmar found more gas and energy to be used as bargaining chips for managing its relationship with its neighbours.
India’s GAIL (India) Limited has released a press statement saying that the “estimated gas resource in the three discovered gas fields Shwe and Shwe Phyu in Block A-1 and May field in Block A-3, have been certified by Gaffney Cline and Associates (GCA). The resource certification by the third party indicates the total estimated gas initially in place is of the order of 5.7 to 10 trillion cubic feet (tcf) of gas.” Myanmar has apparently already agreed to increase its gas export toThailand. Thailand is reportedly keen on buying an additional 100 million cubic feet of gas daily over and above the current 400 million cubic feet of gas it purchases from Myanmar.
The issue of drugs in Myanmar is another ongoing issue that have impacted relations on the borders particularly. Myanmar’s regional authorities have reiterated their commitment to fight against narcotic drugs in two special administrative regions in Shan state. These two regions lie in the Golden Triangle area and borders China. The Secretary-General of the Mongla special region, U New Oo told Xinhua News Agency that the Mongla region was declared opium-cultivation-free zone in 1997 and the region was now turning to the cultivation of bananas. Another region, the Wa region had also been declared opium-poppy-free zone in 2005.
Internally Myanmarese citizens, besides being politically repressed are also scourged by diseases such as HIV/ Aids, tuberculosis and malaria. According to the World Health Organisation, nearly 3,000 people, mostly children under 5 years old, died annually of malaria in Myanmar. There is an estimated 360,000 people inMyanmar suffering from AIDS. The issue was raised after the British government announced that it would give 20 million pounds to Myanmar’s Three Disease Fund or 3-D Fund (to fight HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria). Other European governments such as the Austria, the Netherlands, Sweden, Norway and the European Commission are also likely to donate to the Fund.
In another unsurprising (non-) development, the Philippines Foreign Affairs Secretary Alberto Romulo said that he failed to get any response from General Than Shwe on the release of Aung San Suu Kyi. Romulo said that his appeal was simply met with silence. Nonetheless, he seemed satisfied- “We stated it, that’s the important thing. You know, you cannot force people to make a statement.” He had visited Myanmar’s new administrative capital of Naypyidaw last week on a three-day visit last week.
Myanmar’s ambassador to the Philippines, U Thaung Tun, responded that the work to draft a new constitution was “75 per cent complete” and would be finished “sooner than later.” Tun said that the national convention had already agreed in principle that a presidential type of government with bicameral system would replace the military junta. Tun warned that ASEAN taking tougher actions or stance to force reforms in Myanmar would only result in more problems. He said, “Myanmarhas a long way to go.. we need to work together.. and not confront each other. When you confront people, you only get problems. Look at Iraq and Afghanistan, is that what you want to see in Myanmar?”
5.7 to 10 TCF Gas Reserves Discovered in 3 Myanmar Fields: GAIL (Asia Pulse, 17 August 2006)
Myanmar Agrees to Sell More Gas to Thailand (Thai Press Reports, 17 August 2006)
Myanmar Retracts Helicopter Compensation Pledge (Thai Press Reports, 16 August 2006)
Burma Silent on Demand to Free Suu Kyi- Philippines Foreign Secretary, BBC Worldwide Monitoring (The Philippine Star website, 15 August 2006)
Burma-Thai Border Meeting Concludes Amid Disputes, BBC Monitoring International Reports (Irrawaddy website, 15 August 2006)
Myanmar Seeks More Time, Space to Implement Democratic Reforms (Deutsche Presse-Agentur, 15 August 2006)
Myanmar Regional Authorities Pledge to Step up Drug War (Xinhua General News Service, 15 August 2006)
UK Donates 20m Pounds to Burmese Disease Fund (BBC Worldwide Monitoring [Burmese Democratic Voice of Burma Website], 14 August 2006)