Monday, July 27, 2009

Energy Meeting in Mandalay

By The Irrawaddy

Thailand’s Energy Minister Wannarat Charnnukul will emphasize his country’s strength as a regional hub of alternative energy at a meeting with energy ministers from Asian +3 and Asean +6 in Mandalay on July 29-30, according to a report in the Thailand-based news service The Nation on Monday.

Thailand will join the Asean energy action plan during 2010-2015, which highlights cooperation in seven areas including clean coal technology, the regional power transmission grid, gas pipelines, energy conservation, recycliable energy and nuclear power.

Minister Charnnukul also said that Thailand would also seek a bilateral talk with Burma on further cooperation in natural gas investment, according to the report.

According to a source close to the Thai ministry official, Thailand is concerned that Burma’s gas fields will be monopolized by Chinese state oil firms.

Thailand imports over 50 percent of Burma’s gas, which the French energy conglomerate Total extracts from the Yadana gas field in the Andaman Sea.

Total is one of the world’s six biggest so-called “supermajor” oil and energy companies and is the only large European business still operating in Burma.

In May, the French government said that if tougher trade curbs were introduced against Burma over the regime’s treatment of Aung San Suu Kyi, it would have damaging repercussions for one of France’s biggest companies and possibly for Southeast Asia.

French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner also warned that any pullout by Total would have a limited effect because Chinese state oil firms would be quick to move in.

The EU has urged Burma’s neighbors—notably China and India—to also threaten sanctions to persuade the regime to halt its political repression.

The 25 EU countries are barred from importing timber, minerals, gems and metals from Burma, and prohibited from exporting weapons and weapons-related equipment. Various restrictions on junta members are also in place.

However, both India and China continue to expand their business interests with the Burmese junta and supply it with weapons.

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