Daily Archives: June 12, 2012

Sectarian violence continues in western Myanmar city despite state of emergency

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By The Associated Press

SITTWE, Myanmar – Gunshots rang out and residents fled blazing homes in western Myanmar Tuesday as security forces struggled to contain deadly ethnic and religious violence that has killed at least a dozen people and displaced thousands more.

The conflict pitting ethnic Rakhine Buddhists against Rohingya Muslims in coastal Rakhine state marks some of the worst sectarian unrest in years. President Thein Sein has declared a state of emergency and deployed army troops to restore stability, warning the fragile nation’s recent democratic reforms are under threat as it emerges from half a century of military rule.

On Tuesday in the regional capital, Sittwe, police fired live rounds into the air to disperse a group of Rohingyas who could be seen burning homes in one neighbourhood. Hordes of people ran to escape the chaotic scene.

“Smoke is billowing from many directions and we are scared,” said Ma Thein, an ethnic Rakhine resident. “The government should send in more security forces to protect both communities.”

Truckloads of security forces have been deployed in Sittwe for days, and much of the port city was reported calm, including its main road. But homes were burning in three or four districts that have yet to be pacified.

In one, police fired skyward to separate hundreds-strong mobs wielding sticks and stones; in another, soldiers helped move 1,000 Muslims out on trucks to safer areas.

Ma Thein said that some people were running short of food and water, with banks, schools and markets closed. Some small shops opened early Tuesday to sell fish and vegetables early in the morning to residents who braved the tense streets.

The unrest, which began Friday, was triggered by the rape and murder last month of a Buddhist girl, allegedly by three Muslims, and the June 3 lynching of 10 Muslims in apparent retaliation. There are long-standing tensions between the two groups.

The government regards the Rohingyas as illegal migrants from Bangladesh and has rendered them stateless by denying them citizenship. Although some are recent settlers, many have lived in Myanmar for generations and rights groups say they suffer severe discrimination.

The United Nations’ refugee agency estimates 800,000 Rohingya live in mountainous Rakhine state. Thousands attempt to flee every year to Bangladesh, Malaysia and elsewhere in the region, trying to escape a life of abuse that rights groups say includes forced labour, violence against women and restrictions on movement, marriage and reproduction.

The conflict poses one the biggest tests yet for Myanmar’s new government as it tries to reform the nation after the long-ruling army junta largely ceded power last year. The handling of the unrest will draw close scrutiny from Western powers, which have praised Thein Sein’s administration and rewarded it by easing years of harsh economic sanctions.

Human Rights Watch called on the government to “take all necessary steps to protect communities at risk” in Rakhine state and accused authorities of not doing enough to stop the violence.

The New York-based group’s deputy Asia director, Elaine Pearson, also questioned Thein Sein’s decision to impose a state of emergency, which allows the military to take over administrative functions in the area.

“Given the Burmese army’s brutal record of abuses … putting the military in charge of law enforcement could make matters worse,” Pearson said. Myanmar is also known as Burma.

“The Burmese government‘s policies of exclusion have fostered resentment against the Rohingya,” Pearson said “Longer-term, the government should be thinking about how to address the years of discrimination and neglect that the Rohingya have faced.”

On Monday, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton urged a halt to the violence and called on authorities to conduct a quick, transparent investigation.

State run newspapers reported that 4,100 people who lost homes had taken refuge in Buddhist monasteries, schools and in a police headquarters the towns of Maungdaw and Buthidaung, both in Rakhine state.

Thousands more were reportedly displaced in Sittwe itself, according to a Rakhine political party called the Rakhine Nationalities Development Party. The party is one of the major parties associated with the country’s ethnic minorities, and won 35 parliamentary seats in the 2010 elections.

State media has reported eight dead in Maungdaw, and an AP journalist saw the corpses of four people killed in Sittwe.

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Stena Icemax Drillship Gets Assistance from Fairmount (South Africa)

Fairmount Marine’s multipurpose support vessel Fairmount Fuji has assisted drill ship Stena Icemax while making a stop-over at Cape Town. On request of the owner of Stena Icemax the Fairmount Fuji carried out several cargo runs from the port of Cape Town to the anchorage.

Stena Icemax was under way from the Far East to French Guiana and required to make a stop-over at Cape Town for crew change and replenishment. Stena Icemax is a 228 meters long new build drill ship designed for deep water operations in harsh environments.

Fairmount Fuji is a multipurpose support vessel with a spacious aft deck of 280 square meters and with towing capabilities. Directly after assisting Stena Icemax the Fairmount Fuji was prepared for her next assignment in West Africa region, where she will act as a accommodation and general support vessel for an offshore operator.

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EIA: U.S. Dry Gas Production Growth Levels Off Following Decline in Gas Prices

The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) said in a report that the U.S. dry natural gas production has increased since late 2005 due mainly to rapid growth in production from shale gas resources. However, there have been two notable instances (see red ovals in the chart) in the last seven years when natural gas production leveled off during a period of falling spot natural gas prices.

The first was during the recent economic recession and the latest began in the fourth quarter of 2011 and continued through the first quarter of 2012.

Weather events (see green ovals) have also affected U.S. natural gas production.

The major events over the past seven years that have caused dry gas output to level off or even decline include:

  • Hurricanes Katrina and Rita (Sep-Oct 2005) – Disrupted up to 12.2 billion cubic feet per day (Bcf/d) in offshore natural gas production.
  • Hurricanes Gustav and Ike (Sep 2008) – Disrupted up to 9.5 Bcf/d in offshore natural gas production.
  • Economic recession and falling prices (Oct 2008- Sep 2009) – Reduced industrial and manufacturing activity, and lower electricity use eased demand for natural gas as a feedstock and a power generation fuel. Natural gas prices fell sharply as a result.
  • Winter well freeze-offs (Feb 2011) – Disrupted up to 7.5 Bcf/d in natural gas production from Texas to Arizona, when water froze inside wellheads during extremely cold weather and blocked gas flows.
  • Supply overhang and falling natural gas prices (Oct 2011-Mar 2012) – A warm winter that reduced heating fuel demand and record high gas inventories resulted in a nearly 50% drop in gas prices, causing some energy companies to postpone new drilling and cut back on some existing operations.

Natural gas production was relatively flat between October 2011 and March 2012, when Henry Hub spot gas prices declined from just above $3.50 to around $2.00 per million British thermal units in March. Preliminary EIA data indicate a slight drop in production during March, according to the Natural Gas Monthly report released on May 31.

Of the five large gas-producing states tracked monthly by EIA—Texas, Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Wyoming—New Mexico had the highest percentage decline in its March gross natural gas production, down 2.2 percent from the previous month, while Texas had the largest volumetric drop, down 150 million cubic feet per day. States that EIA does not presently track on a monthly basis, such as Pennsylvania, may have seen their gas output increase during March.

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