A Look at Myanmar's History as Emerging Energy Supplier





Sandwiched in between China and India, two of the world's biggest new sources of energy demand, Myanmar is believed to have significant untapped reserves of natural gas. But its tangled history of government restrictions and, more recently, allegations of human-rights violations have limited outside investment to develop its resources.

The country now known as Myanmar was one of the world's first oil producers, with some exports as early as 1853. Foreign investment followed, with sizable fields developed in the late 1800s and early 1900s.

In 1962, the country came under the control of a military regime that nationalized the oil and gas industry. Until the late 1980s, the government kept foreign operators out. But beginning in 1988, it liberalized the oil and gas sector to begin allowing outside investment again. Western companies including Total S.A. and Unocal Corp. -- later bought by Chevron -- entered the market.

Within a few years, however, the U.S. and Europe imposed sanctions against Myanmar's military regime, preventing other Western companies from staking a claim. In their absence, a host of investors from Asia and elsewhere expanded their operations, including Cnooc Ltd. of China and South Korea's Daewoo International. The process intensified after 2004, as Myanmar authorities accelerated the opening of areas for exploration.

By 2007, at least 27 companies from 13 countries, including Petronas of Malaysia and ONGC of India, were active in Myanmar's oil and gas industry, according to a report by Human Rights Watch. The list included numerous companies that are wholly or partially owned by national governments in the region.



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