Global energy companies Chevron and Total have announced they will withdraw from Myanmar, a major development for activists who have campaigned for the companies to cut off what is a major source of revenue for the military junta.
In a statement, Total, which changed its name to TotalEnergies last year, cited the worsening human rights situation in Myanmar, which plunged into chaos nearly a year ago when the military seized power in a coup. and overthrew the democratically elected government of Aung San Su Kyi. .
The French company said that the human rights situation and the deterioration of the rule of law “no longer allow TotalEnergies to make a sufficiently positive contribution in the country”.
US firm Chevron said it also planned to leave “in light of the circumstances”.
Since the coup, the army has tried to crush any opposition to its government, leading civilians to form armed defense groups. At least 11,651 people have been arrested for opposing military rule, while 1,488 have been killed, according to the Political Prisoners Assistance Association, which monitors military abuses.
The announcement is a major victory for activists, who have called on all companies to sever business ties with the state-owned Myanmar Oil and Gas Enterprise (MOGE), which has close ties to the military.
According to Human Rights Watch, natural gas projects in Myanmar generate more than $1 billion in foreign revenue for the board each year, its largest source of foreign currency income.
TotalEnergies has operated the Yadana gas project off Myanmar’s southwestern coast since the 1990s and owns a 31.24% stake. Chevron owns 28.26% of the project, which supplies Myanmar and Thailand. PTTEP, a subsidiary of Thailand’s national energy company PTT, and MOGE are the remaining shareholders.
Yadanar Maung, spokesperson for the activist group Justice for Myanmar, welcomed the decision, saying: “TotalEnergies has finally heeded calls from the people of Myanmar, local and international civil society to stop the flow of funds to the terror junta.
“It is now essential that international governments move forward with targeted oil and gas sanctions to deny the board funding for remaining oil and gas projects.”
TotalEnergies said it had approached French authorities to consider implementing targeted sanctions that would “confine all financial flows from the various partners to escrow accounts without shutting down gas production.” The company added that it had not identified any means of doing so.
The firm said that the contractual agreements state that, in the event of withdrawal, its interests will be shared between the current partners, unless they object to such assignment, and that the role of operator will be assumed by one of the partners.
A Chevron spokesman said: “In light of the circumstances in Myanmar, we have reviewed our interest in the Yadana natural gas project to allow for a planned and orderly transition leading to exit from the country.”
“As a non-operator with a minority interest in the project, our immediate priority remains the safety and well-being of employees, safe operations, and supplying much-needed energy to the people of Myanmar and Thailand.”
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism