Wikileaks and Bangladesh

Well, it certainly is becoming more obvious as to why both the US and the UK want Wikileaks shut down.  The latest cable releases from the disc carried out of the State Department by an anonymous source details some horrendous behavior in the small, developing nation of Bangladesh.   The more I dig into the details of what’s going on in developing nations due to our greed and their lack of justice systems and laws just about has me weeping on my computer keys.

For one, we learn that the US pushed for reopening a mine that was the subject of protests by residents of the area.

US diplomats privately pressurised the Bangladeshi government into reinstating a controversial coal mine which had been closed following violent protests, a leaked diplomatic cable shows.

The US ambassador to Dhaka, James Moriarty, last year held talks with the country’s chief energy adviser, urging him to approve plans by the British company Global Coal Management (GCM) to begin open-cast coal mining in the country’s Phulbari area, in the west of Bangladesh.

GCM were forced to shut down operations in the country in 2006 after a grassroots demonstration turned violent. Three people were killed as soldiers fired at protesters, and several hundred were injured.

But the company has continued to maintain a strong presence in the country and has continued to lobby for rights to operate the coal mine ever since. Earlier this month, Steve Bywater, GCM’s chairman, said that a Bangladeshi parliamentary standing committee had recommended that the country moves towards extracting coal reserves using open-cut mining methods.

The Phulbari Coal project was supposed to turn the country into a coal-exporter by 2007.  I found some information on the project and lo and behold, JP Morgan has financial interests.  As you know, what’s good for the nation’s investment bankers is good for the country.

Major Institutional Shareholders (Over 3%)

  • RAB Capital Special Situations
  • LLP Framlington Investment Management Limited
  • L-R Global Partners
  • LP L-R Global Fund Limited
  • Morgan Stanley Securities Limited
  • Cambrian Mining Plc

There’s also some start up investment involvement with Barclay’s Capital.  Some geologist is going to have to look at most of those slides in the presentation, but the financial interests and the start up project is right up my alley.  A good place to start investigating the value to the country of the project is a site called the  International Accountability Project.

In the Phulbari area of Northwest Bangladesh, communities have come together to raise their voices against the proposed Phulbari Coal Project–which threatens to turn this fertile agricultural region into an open-pit coal mine.  If implemented, the mine would have devastating environmental impacts and ultimately displace up to 130,000 people.

Old Strip Mines in Florida: Landscape forever changed.


Well, now we know why there were riots and if you look at the financials in that presentation, you can see why a few grubby folks want to go wreck the environment there.   You may want to check the presentation slides for this little item. The mine life is only 30 years.  The strip ratio is expected to be 6.1 waste bcm per tonne of coal.  I took one course in geology as an undergraduate and mostly identified rocks and strata soI had go look up the exact implication of a strip ratio.  I found a short explanation from Ernest & Young First, a low strip ratio is good because that means less has to be stripped out.  Stripping costs seem to be the major cost for coal mines. You can see from the presentation that the type of mining employed is Opencast with Truck and Shovel.

Open cast coal mining recovers a greater proportion of the coal deposit than underground methods, as more of the coal seams in the strata may be exploited. Large Open Cast mines can cover an area of many square kilometers and use very large pieces of equipment. This equipment can include the following: Draglines which operate by removing the overburden, power shovels, large trucks in which transport overburden and coal, bucket wheel excavators, and conveyors. In this mining method, explosives are first used in order to break through the surface of the mining area. The coal is then removed by draglines or by shovel and truck. Once the coal seam is exposed, it is drilled, fractured and thoroughly mined in strips. The coal is then loaded on to large trucks or conveyors for transport to either the coal preparation plant or directly to where it will be used

As such, the process is very destructive to the surrounding environment.  The region involved is now full of farmers in a country where food insecurity is still an issue.  From the IAP:

The Phulbari coal mine would use 5,933 hectares (around 60 sq. km.) of land, 80 percent of which is used for agriculture.  It would physically displace as many as 130,000 people, mostly farming and indigenous households. This uprooting and resettlement of entire villages is being planned in one of the world’s most densely populated countries.  Project plans clearly state that agricultural land and other vital resources including fish ponds, timber, and bamboo trees, would not be replaced.  In short, the lives and livelihoods of tens of thousands of people would be irrevocably disrupted by a mining operation that would transform productive farmers into landless people with no clear prospects for other livelihoods or employment.

Going back to the cable leaked from the Wikileaks:

In a cable posted by WikiLeaks which was sent in July last year, Moriarty says he had urged Tawfiq Elahi

Open pit mine in Colorado

Chowdhury, the prime minister’s energy adviser, to authorise coal mining, saying that “open-pit mining seemed the best way forward”.

Later on in the cable, Moriarty privately noted: “Asia Energy, the company behind the Phulbari project, has sixty percent US investment. Asia Energy officials told the Ambassador they were cautiously optimistic that the project would win government approval in the coming months.”

However, in the cable Moriarty also notes that Chowdhury admitted the coal mine was “politically sensitive in the light of the impoverished, historically oppressed tribal community residing on the land”. Chowdhury, according to the cable, then agrees to build support for the project through the parliamentary process.

Well, that’s what our delightful government is doing in its spare time; protecting the investments of JP Morgan and ruining the lives of tens of thousands of indigenous Bangladeshis.  But what about our cousins the Brits?  This is from MSNBC.

The British government has trained a paramilitary force accused of hundreds of killings in Bangladesh, according to leaked U.S. embassy cables.

The Guardian newspaper said the cables described training for members of the Rapid Action Battalion as being in “investigative interviewing techniques” and “rules of engagement.”

One cable notes that U.S. training for the battalion in counterterrorism would be illegal under U.S. law because of human rights violations.

The newspaper said the battalion has been accused by human rights activists of being a “death squad” responsible for more than 1,000 extra-judicial killings since it was established in 2004. In March, the battalion’s leader said it had killed 622 people in “crossfire.”

The RAB’s use of torture has also been exhaustively documented by human rights groups, the Guardian said. In addition, officers from the paramilitary force are alleged to have been involved in kidnap and extortion, and are frequently accused of taking large bribes in return for carrying out killings.

However, the cables reveal that British and Americans officials favor bolstering the force to strengthen counter-terrorism operations in Bangladesh. One cable describes U.S. Ambassador James Moriarty as saying the battalion is the “enforcement organization best positioned to one day become a Bangladeshi version of the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation.”

The British training began three years ago, The Guardian said, quoting the cables.

There is also this report from Democracy Now if you’d like to watch more coverage of the item.   There’s your taxes at works folks!!  Making friends around the world!!

No wonder they want to shut down the Wikileaks and jail its founder.

Aside:  Although the above information–according to Assange–was not from Bradley Manning, I did want to mention this good news.

The United Nations is investigating a complaint on behalf of Bradley Manning that he is being mistreated while held since May in US Marine Corps custody pending trial. The army private is charged with the unauthorised use and disclosure of classified information, material related to the WikiLeaks, and faces a court martial sometime in 2011.

The office of Manfred Nowak, special rapporteur on torture based in Geneva, received the complaint from a Manning supporter; his office confirmed that it was being looked into. Manning’s supporters say that he is in solitary confinement for 23 hours a day; this could be construed as a form of torture. This month visitors reported that his mental and physical health was deteriorating.

The Pentagon denies the former intelligence analyst is mistreated, saying he is treated the same as other prisoners at Quantico, Virginia, is able to exercise, and has access to newspapers and visitors.

He was charged in July with leaking classified material including video posted by WikiLeaks of a 2007 US attack in Baghdad by a Apache helicopter that killed a Reuters news photographer and his driver.

13 Comments on “Wikileaks and Bangladesh”

  1. grayslady says:

    I’m glad that someone is finally going to investigate the conditions in which Manning is being held. I’m somewhat surprised that the Brits have made no efforts on his behalf since Manning holds dual British and American citizenship, from what I’ve read.

    As to the death squads in Bangladesh, I read about that in The Guardian this morning and was thoroughly disgusted. Didn’t these people learn their lesson from backing Osama bin Laden when the Russians were in Afghanistan? Be careful of what you create.

  2. Woman Voter says:

    Cenk Uyger interviews Julian Assange 15 15Minutes –DylanRatiganShow-MSNBC 12-22-10.flv

    • Woman Voter says:

      Well, Cenk is interviewing Julian Assange…way to go Cenk (The Young Turks)! Oh, and Cenk asked some questions I was interested in too.

    • Dario says:

      Great questions from Cenk. Usually foreigners are not as informed about U.S. history, such as the 1917 Espionage Act, the charges against the NYT by G.W.B. and other details. It was a very good interview.

      I’m glad Cenk didn’t go into the sex stuff.

  3. bostonboomer says:

    Great post, Dakinikat. I’m going to have to digest all this tomorrow, but from a quick read, I’m aghast at what is being done in our name.

    • dakinikat says:

      Like the Pfizer story, this one wasn’t a ‘new’ story, but the behind the scenes manipulations by our country and by big business … the appalling attempts to throw over the people in these countries IS news. That’s why the information coming from the STATE department is significant. It documents how our government and our businesses are bribing, blackmailing, and coercing other countries’ officials.

      • Valhalla says:

        Did you see anything about whether the mining has resumed, or is he still building “parlimentary support”?

        • dakinikat says:

          Yes, it’s not resumed yet. It’s still stalled. The most current information I could find is at the International Accountability project link up top.

          • dakinikat says:

            This organization continues to demonstrate in London against the company and did so this month at the annual meeting.


            Here’s their letter that is a plea for help:

            As you probably already know that a British company, GCM Resources (formerly known as Asia Energy) is aggressively trying to secure a deal with Bangladesh Government to capture the biggest coal reserve of Bangladesh in Phulbari, Dinajpur. The proposed deal will pay merely 6% of royalty to Bangladesh and 94% of revenue will be taken by GCM! Moreover they will enjoy 9 years of tax holiday to further increase their profit! The project will roughly bring $200 billion to GCM and only $7 billion to Bangladesh in terms of financial benefit.

            On the other hand, the risks this project poses are grave and numerous. This open-pit mine will directly:

            * cause destruction of 6,000 hectares of Bangladesh’s most fertile lands which produce 3 crops per year.
            * render displacement of 220,000 people, including at least 2,200 indigenous households.
            * cause widespread de-watering resulting over 200,000 people to suffer reduced access to water for household and agricultural use.
            * pose high risk of acid mine drainage contaminating soil and rivers far beyond the mine’s footprint, as well groundwater contamination resulting from coal transport and as land subsidence

            Plans to dredge the Pussur river to allow for coal transport, and to divert the Khari Pul and Namissa rivers, endanger biodiverse habitats and the species they support. Plans to transport coal by barge through the Sundarbans threaten a vital UNESCO-protected habitat which is one of the world’s largest mangrove forests, serves as a life-saving barrier against the devastating impacts of floods and cyclones, and is home to endangered species that include the Bengal tiger.

  4. Sima says:

    It’s amazing isn’t it? Overturn one rock (or series of cables) and a whole army of vermin scurry out, trying to hide from the light.

    I’m more and more convinced of the importance of efforts like wikileaks. No, maybe the information isn’t earth-shattering every time, but it brings the deeds of our overlords into bright sunshine, for all to examine.

    In the meantime, I hope they can keep the mining out of Bangladesh.

  5. dakinikat says:

    I don’t know if any one reads the feeds we’ve put up from the UK Guardian which is running a daily release of a Wikileak item, but it appears the UK Government is going to face a legal challenge because of the training of the death squads.

    The government faces a legal challenge to its support for a Bangladeshi paramilitary group described by human rights organisations as a “government death squad”.

    Lawyers are to seek a judicial review of the legality of training assistance provided to the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB), arguing that it places the UK in breach of its obligations under international law.

    Members of RAB have been held responsible for hundreds of extrajudicial killings since the unit was established in 2004. The unit itself admits to being responsible for more than 600 deaths, which it euphemistically attributes to “crossfire”.

    Dhaka has resisted pressure to disband the unit, with one government minister declaring last year: “The government will need to continue with extrajudicial killings, commonly called crossfire.”