Friday, May 27

Energy giants Total and Chevron leave Myanmar over human rights abuses

TotalEnergies and Chevron, two of the world’s largest energy conglomerates, said on Friday they would halt all operations in Myanmar, citing rampant human rights abuses and the deterioration of the rule of law since the country’s military ousted the elected government. .

The announcement came just as Total called for international sanctions against Myanmar’s oil and gas sector, which remains one of the main sources of funding for the military government.

The sanctions would target the state-owned Myanma Oil and Gas Enterprise (MOGE), which is a joint venture partner in all of Myanmar’s offshore gas projects, including Yadana with Total, Chevron and Thailand’s PTT Exploration & Production.

Total has a majority stake in the company and runs its day-to-day operations, while MOGE collects revenue on behalf of the government.

“Since the February 1 coup, we have seen the evolution of the country and it is clearly not favourable: the rule of law and human rights situation in Myanmar has clearly deteriorated for months and despite civil disobedience movements, the board has maintained and our analysis is that unfortunately it is long-term,” Total said.

Since taking power, the army has brutally cracked down on dissent, kidnapping youth and children, killing health workers and torturing prisoners.

A former Total employee in Myanmar who has campaigned against the company’s ties to the military government said she was surprised and pleased by the decision, although she acknowledged it would be difficult to find work elsewhere.

“For the employees who still work at Total, this is bad news, even if they oppose the dictatorship or fight against the military. But for me, as an ordinary person and not as an employee, I will say that it is great news,” she told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because she feared reprisals from the government.

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Total said it would withdraw without financial compensation and hand over its interests to the other interested parties.

About half of Myanmar’s foreign exchange comes from natural gas revenues, and it is expected to earn 1.3 billion euros from offshore and pipeline projects in 2021-2022, according to a Myanmar government forecast. Previous rounds of US and European sanctions against Myanmar’s military have excluded oil and gas.

In a statement issued shortly after Total’s announcement, Chevron said it also planned to leave “in light of the circumstances.” The company condemned human rights abuses and said it would comply with any international sanctions. There was no firm time frame for Chevron’s exit, but Total said it expected its exit to be finalized within six months.

The Myanmar-based human rights group Blood Money Campaign called on the companies to ensure that future payments are made into accounts inaccessible to the military and to “stop treating the criminal junta as a legitimate government.”

Human Rights Watch welcomed the decision.

“The next step is to ensure that gas revenues do not continue to fund these atrocities,” said Ken Roth, the organization’s executive director.

PTT Exploration & Production, the Thai company, said it was examining its options “giving the utmost importance to the energy security of Thailand and Myanmar and avoiding impacts on energy demand for the livelihood of people in both countries.”

The Yadana field is expected to be depleted in the next few years and was nearing the end of its operations. The two companies had previously stopped dividend payments for the Myanmar project. But that decision had limited impact on any revenue going to Myanmar’s state-owned oil and gas company or the military-controlled government.

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