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April 9, 2024, Washington, D.C. – The American fossil fuel company Chevron has exited from the controversial Yadana gas project in Myanmar after more than 30 years, during which it financed a brutal military dictatorship, an ongoing military coup attempt that began in 2021, and serious human rights abuses against the Myanmar people.

Kirk Herbertson, Senior Policy Advisor at EarthRights, released the following statement:

“Throughout the coup, Chevron has remained in business with the Myanmar military through its partnership with the Myanmar Oil and Gas Enterprise (MOGE), which remains under the control of the illegal junta. Even now, Chevron appears to have exited Myanmar in an irresponsible manner, ensuring that the junta will continue misappropriating tens of millions of dollars in gas revenues each month.

“The chief executive officer of the Thai state-owned fossil fuel company PTT Exploration and Production Company (PTTEP), announced Chevron’s exit in a letter to the Thai stock exchange. Justice for Myanmar, an investigative research group, reported on Facebook that ‘Chevron’s interest in the Yadana gas project has been redistributed to the remaining shareholders: Thailand’s PTTEP and MOGE, a government department within the Ministry of Electricity and Energy and a revenue-collecting office for the Government of Myanmar. MOGE’s accounts were unlawfully seized by the junta during its 2021 attempted coup.’

“Since the coup began, the military’s junta has misappropriated billions of dollars in MOGE revenues that are owed to the legitimate Government of Myanmar. United Nations experts have determined that the junta is not the country’s legitimate government, meaning that it is not allowed to stand in for the government in commercial contracts. Nevertheless, the Yadana project shareholders, including Chevron, decided to treat the military junta as their counterpart and have facilitated payments to the junta throughout the coup.

“Chevron announced its intention to exit the project two years ago. The company’s initial plan was to sell its interest to MTI Energy, prompting civil society organizations to file a complaint with the OECD National Contact Point against the Canadian company. Ultimately, Chevron decided to transfer its ownership to the remaining partners in the joint venture. 

“Since the military coup began in February 2021, civil society has repeatedly asked Chevron to stop allowing the junta to misappropriate gas revenues before exiting the project, in line with international human rights standards for responsible disengagement. All evidence suggests, however, that Chevron’s exit arrangements will ensure that revenues continue to reach the junta.

“Chevron has a responsibility to disclose what, if any, safeguards it put in place to prevent the military junta from continuing to misappropriate revenues from the Yadana gas project after its exit. So far, all signs suggest that they did not put any safeguards in place.

“Chevron’s responsibilities do not end even though it has exited from the Yadana partnership. According to international human rights standards, the company still has a responsibility to take steps to remediate human rights harms associated with its investment. Where a company has contributed to adverse impacts, disengagement does not absolve it from its responsibility to provide for or cooperate in remediation of such adverse impacts. 

“According to international human rights standards, responsible disengagement involves meaningful consultation with stakeholders, including civil society and the National Unity Government. Responsible disengagement also involves transparency – companies are expected to disclose the details of their human rights due diligence process and their plans for remediation. EarthRights has found no evidence that Chevron conducted any meaningful consultation with stakeholders from Myanmar during the disengagement process or shared details of any human rights due diligence or planned remediation.

“In October 2023, the United States announced partial sanctions on MOGE, prohibiting certain types of transactions with the entity but falling short of cutting it off from the U.S. financial system, as the EU had done with the euro in early 2022. However, the Yadana shareholders – in a decision that required approval from Chevron – agreed to redirect payments to new bank accounts and approved a currency change from U.S. dollars to Thai baht, allowing the continued flow of revenues to MOGE despite these sanctions. 

“Now that Chevron has exited, we call on the U.S. Government to immediately place full sanctions on MOGE. The United States has the ability to cut off the military junta’s access to lucrative gas revenues, but has delayed action for years in part due to Chevron’s lobbying and misinformation campaigns.” 

“Each month that the United States delays further action, the military junta is able to access significant amounts of revenue that can be used to purchase the weapons, aviation fuel, and other resources it needs to continue committing atrocities against the Myanmar people.

“Chevron has been involved in the Yadana project since the 1990s. Since its earliest days, the project has been mired in controversy, as the pipeline’s construction became linked to serious human rights abuses for which they settled lawsuits brought against them by ethnic Karen villagers from the pipeline area. Almost three decades later, the project is nearing the end of its life and about to wind down, but even now continues to bankroll the military’s violence against the Myanmar people.”

Kirk Herbertson
Senior Policy Advisor, EarthRights International