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Total Co started to lay the pipeline between Ohnbingwin and Hpaungdaw
villages as of the beginning of January 1997 and has reportedly already
completed it by now. The pipeline was laid about chest-deep under the ground
and was covered with think concrete, according to eyewitness accounts given
by some locals. Total Co has continued the on-land part of the pipeline
laying work. 

Many local sources uniformly claim that one of the French workers of Total
Co was seized on the way to Nateintaung on the last week of January 1997 by
some guerrillas from Karen National Union. KNU has reportedly held the
French gas pipeline worker hostage, demanding a ransom of 50 million US
dollars from Total Co. SLORC has deployed many more troops along the road to
Nateintaung in an attempt to strength its control of the gas pipeline area
following the capture of the French gas pipeline worker in question by KNU,
according to local sources. SLORC is reportedly dissatisfied with Total Co's
French gas pipeline workers for their bold travelling in the area without
taking escorts from the SLORC military. Total Co has subsequently had to
hold talks with SLORC generals to resolve the problem. The pipeline
construction will have to be put to a standstill temporarily until the
current Total-SLORC talks are over."A 25-year-old Mon man (Nai Kan Myint)
from Hsin Ku village, who met our human rights workers on 25 February 1997,
quoted the French gas pipeline field workers of Total Co as saying it
shortly earlier. 

One other French gas pipeline worker from Total Co and 2 Burmese workers all
died by electrocution out of accident while they were together laying
pipeline under the sea some time in February 1997, according to local sources. 

Mon Information Service (Bangkok)