200000 workers expelled from Htan Gaing oil-field

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Wednesday, 18 September 2013 00:00Mizzima

Over 200000 oil well workers, oil well drilling workers, vendors and crude oil traders received notice letters to leave the Htan Gaing oilfield in Minhla Township, Magwe Region by September 16. The vendors have been told to leave the oilfield by September 14.

The unsigned notice issued on September 9 states that Section 144 of the Criminal Procedural Code (CrPC) has been imposed around the oilfield, banning assembly of more than five people in the area. It further states that crude oil is a natural resource owned by the state and no one is authorized by the government to extract it.

The Secretary of Magwe Region government was contacted on September 15 for comments but was unreachable.

The Htan Gaing oilfield area was previously owned by 27 farmers. In 2007, the government seized 71 acres of farmlands and gave it to private companies to extract crude oil. Section 144 of CrPC was imposed in the area at that time too.

Than Htike, an activist who has been helping the farmers said that the authorities gave these land back to their previous owners on April 29 after underground crude oil deposits was exhausted.

Thereafter, some of the farmers drilled wells in their property and some sold their land. The farmers had appealed to the President and ministries concerned to let them work in the oilfields officially, Than Htike added.

Oil well drilling worker Tun Myint said that the eviction order was not received through proper channel or from an authority.

“The letter does not mention any governmental department as issuing authority. It was handed over from one person to another,” he said.

Local oil workers said that more than 100 policemen had been deployed in the oil field area since September 10 and security has been beefed up.

Volunteers helping the farmers and workers in Htan Gaing oilfield told Mizzima that over 200000 workers rely on the oilfield for livelihood and wanted the eviction order revoked, since the Htan Gaing area has been rendered barren and unsuitable for farming crops.

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