(AP) — Myanmar's state oil firm is set to sign contracts with companies from China, Singapore and South Korea for oil and gas exploration, state media reported Saturday.
The state-run New Light of Myanmar newspaper noted the upcoming deals in a report on a "special projects implementation meeting" headed by President Thein Sein on Friday in the capital, Naypyitaw. The report cited Energy Minister Than Htay saying Myanmar will cooperate with foreign companies for oil and gas exploration.
The newspaper said Myanma Oil and Gas Enterprise will sign contracts with China's North Petro-Chem Corporation Ltd for onshore oil and gas exploration.
It will also sign agreements with Korea-Myanmar Development Co. Ltd and Brilliant Oil Corporation Pte Ltd of Singapore for oil and gas exploration offshore in northwestern Rakhine state and the Tanintharyi region in southeastern Myanmar.
In addition, agreements will be signed with Singapore's SNOG Pte. Ltd and UPR Pte. Ltd for the mining of shale in eastern Karen state, the report said.
The report did not say when the contracts would be signed or when work on any of the projects would start.
Natural gas is Myanmar's largest export earner. Myanmar has huge gas reserves and is conducting oil and gas exploration with local and foreign companies in 49 onshore blocks and 26 offshore blocks.
Myanmar exports natural gas from its two major offshore gas fields in the Gulf of Martaban, with neighboring Thailand being the primary market. China National Petroleum Corp. is building a 771-kilometer (481 mile) pipeline from northwestern Rakhine state to China's Yunnan province.
The exploration contracts will be among to be the first major ones signed with foreign enterprises under the nominally civilian government installed last month.
Former military figures and allies dominate the current leadership, and critics say the November election was orchestrated to perpetuate military power in the country that's been military ruled since 1962.
The government says the election was part of Myanmar's roadmap to democracy and has urged Western nations to lift long-standing political and economic sanctions imposed because of the country's poor human rights record. The U.S. has said lifting sanctions would be premature.