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Thursday, 29 August, 2002, 18:18 GMT 19:18 UK
TotalFinaElf denies Burma abuse
The pipeline was completed in 1998
The French energy giant, TotalFinaElf, has denied claims that it used forced labour to build an oil and gas pipeline in Burma.


It is unimaginable that a company like ours could have used forced labour at any time

TotalFinaElf
The giant is facing a legal inquiry into allegations of human rights abuses after French lawyers filed a complaint on behalf of two Burmese workers who took part in building the $1.3bn pipeline through Myanmar, known as Burma.

"It is unimaginable that a company like ours could have used forced labour at any time," a TotalFinaElf spokesman said.

"Neither we nor our service suppliers have used forced labour."

Serious crime

In a legal filing with an investigating magistrate in Nanterre, west of Paris, the lawyers have accused the energy giant's chairman, Thierry Desmarest, of holding the workers against their will.

The pipeline
The crime carries a 20-year sentence according to French law.

"We have not been notified [by judicial authorities] of anything," the energy giant's spokesman said.

The lawyers' complaint was filed three months after TotalFinaElf was accused by refugees in Belgium of actively supporting Burma's military regime.

TotalFinaElf built the pipeline together with Unocal of the US from an offshore Myanmar site to Thailand.

In June, Burmese workers brought legal action against Unocal.


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12 Jun 02 | Business
07 May 02 | Asia-Pacific
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12 Feb 02 | Asia-Pacific
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