Myanmar officially opened a pipeline linking the Yadana natural gas field in the Andaman Sea to Yangon, to ease a chronic power shortage in its largest city, state media reported Sunday.

Government-controlled newspapers said Energy Minister U Lun Thi turned a golden valve to open the 24-inch diameter pipeline in a ceremony Saturday in Insein Township north of Yangon.

He called the new pipeline the pride of the nation.

The gas pipeline is 136 kilometers on land and 151 kilometers offshore and is operated by Total SA, a French energy group, and US-based Chevron Corporation, in partnership with the state-owned Myanma Oil and Gas Enterprise.

The Thai state-owned company PTT is also a partner, and much of the offshore field's gas is directed to Thailand.

The project has generated controversy, with human rights groups accusing the French and US companies of financially propping up Myanmar's military government.

They also accused the junta of widespread abuses against the ethnic Karen minority, whose territory has been used for the pipeline project.

Copyright 2010 dpa Deutsche Presse-Agentur GmbH