YANGON, Mar 14 (AFP): Myanmar's military government has barred foreign firms from onshore oil and gas exploration and production, opting to reserve the operations for state enterprises, the Myanmar Times reported today.
The report did not say whether existing contracts with foreign firms would be terminated.
The energy ministry has sent letters to foreign firms that are seeking exploration and production rights for onshore blocks, explaining that the blocks would be reserved for its Myanma Oil and Gas Enterprise, the semi-official weekly newspaper cited ministry official Soe Aung as saying.
The decision became effective March 7, said Soe Aung, who was named as a director in the ministry's energy planning department.
The government has demarcated 46 onshore blocks in Myanmar, of which nine are under development by foreign firms, the report said.
Yangon has signed dozens of oil and gas exploration and production contracts with foreign companies, mostly for offshore gas operations, since the country opened its doors to foreign investment in 1988.
They include firms from Canada, China, France, India, Korea, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and the United States.
Export of natural gas is Myanmar's largest foreign currency earner. It takes some 400 million dollars per year on its gas sales to neighbour Thailand from its Yadana and Yetagun gas fields in the south.
French oil group Total and US giant Unocal both invest in Myanmar and have been accused by human rights groups of ignoring abuses during the building of a 1.2-billion-dollar gas pipeline in the country, which was formerly known as Burma, in the 1990s.