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Unocal, Human Rights Group Settlement Near in Burmese Case - 2004-12-13


A human rights organization says it is ecstatic at reaching a tentative settlement with U.S. oil giant Unocal, on behalf of a group of Burmese villagers.

EarthRights International, which represents the plaintiffs, said the settlement will compensate the villagers and provide funds for them to improve living conditions, health care, and education. Exact terms are still under negotiation. Unocal has confirmed what it called a settlement in principle.

The lawsuit alleged that Burmese soldiers forced male villagers to become slave laborers on a natural gas pipeline to Thailand, in which California-based Unocal was a minority partner. The villagers also charged that soldiers guarding pipeline construction sites during the 1990s physically abused them.

Unocal has consistently denied there were any human-rights violations during the 1.2-billion-dollar project.

Information for this report is provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

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