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Tuesday, 31 May 1994
Page: 1002

(Question No. 1374)

Senator Chamarette asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs, upon notice, on 9 May 1994:

  With reference to increasing support by multilateral funding bodies for infrastructure development in Burma:

  (1) Is the Minister aware of plans to develop a number of dams along the Salween River.

  (2) What funding has the State Law and Order Restoration Council (SLORC) been able to attract for these projects from the Asian Development Bank, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

  (3) Has the Government sought to use its voice on the boards of these bodies to argue against such funding.

  (4) Is the Minister further aware of plans to develop a Burma to Thailand gas pipeline as a joint project between the SLORC and the Thai Government.

  (5) Please provide details of relocations of ethnic Burmese refugees within Thailand to accommodate the proposed route of the pipeline.

  (6) Will the Minister use the Government's voice on the boards of the Asian Development Bank, the World Bank and the IMF to ensure no funding assistance is provided for this project and ensure that no Australian company is involved in consultancy, design or construction work for this project.

Senator Gareth Evans —The answer to the honourable senator's question is as follows:

  (1) Plans to develop dams along the Salween River to augment energy and water supplies available to Northern Thailand and Myanmar have been canvassed for many years. Thai Deputy Prime Minister Amnuay Virawan said publicly in February that the Thai and Myanmar governments had agreed in principle to cooperate in developing water resources, including the Salween River.

  (2) None. Since 1988, the World Bank, the IMF and the Asian Development Bank have not undertaken any new activities in Myanmar. The IMF does not provide loans for projects, and at this stage neither the ADB nor the World Bank plan to resume operations in Myanmar.

  (3) As none of these bodies has considered lending for activities in Myanmar, this question has not arisen.

  (4) I am aware that negotiations have been underway for some time between companies involved in the development of the Yadana offshore gas field in the Gulf of Martaban, the Myanmar Oil and Gas Enterprise and the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (EGAT) on the sale of natural gas from the Yadana field to EGAT. I understand that conclusion of an agreement on the sale of gas to Thailand would lead to the construction of a delivery pipeline from the field to Thailand.

  (5) We have no hard evidence to support claims that ethnic Burmese refugees within Thailand have been relocated to accommodate the proposed route of the pipeline. The Australian Embassies in Bangkok and Yangon are following up claims by the "National Coalition Government of the Union of Burma" that a number of villages in Myanmar's Tenasserim Division have been relocated because of the pipeline construction project. At this stage we have no evidence to support these claims.

  (6) Australia is bound by the Articles of Agreement of both the Asian Development Bank and World Bank, which require loan proposals to be made without regard to political or other non-economic considerations. As noted in response to part (2) of this question, the IMF does not provide loans for the funding of projects. There are no sanctions on trade or investment in Myanmar under Australian Government policy.