Buddhist Monastery Pressured to Sell after Gas Discovery

Narinjara News, May 1, 2006

Mrauk U, Myanmar -- The authority in Mrauk U has requested that the Abbot of Set Tha Wra Village sell the plot of land on which the monastery sits to the state after natural gas was discovered within the compound, said a monk from the monastery.

The village is located in the south of Mrauk U Township, one of the last ancient cities of Arakan. Gas has been oozing from a hole within the monastery compound; villagers have been lighting the gas seepage at the mouth of the hole and using it to boil water, said the monk.

However, the abbot has refused to sell the monastery to authorities as it is of historic importance.

Last year, gas was also found within a house compound when villagers began to dig a hole for construction of the home. At that time, the township authority visited the village to study the presence of natural gas in the area.

According to village sources, the abbot and the villagers are now under pressure from the local authority to sell the monastery to authorities for gas exploration. Neither the abbot nor the villagers wish to sell the monastery.

Arakan State is rich in natural resources, including oil, gas, bamboo, teak, fish and marble. Several foreign companies including Daewoo and China National Offshore Oil Corp. have been investing in the natural gas and oil sectors in Arakan State.