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February 22, 2022, Washington, D.C.–“This week, the European Union announced that it is imposing sanctions on officials in Myanmar as well as on the Myanma Oil and Gas Enterprise (MOGE). EarthRights International welcomes these sanctions, which are long overdue. Through MOGE, the Myanmar military junta has illegally seized control of hundreds of millions of dollars in gas revenues, including around 500 million U.S. dollars from TotalEnergies’ and Chevron’s Yadana gas project since the coup began last February. EU and U.S. companies should not be propping up a junta that is committing atrocity crimes. 

“These sanctions now leave the U.S. lagging behind the EU, undermining U.S. rhetoric on supporting democracy in Myanmar. The U.S. should act immediately to enact sanctions that stop gas revenues.

“While it is good that the EU has recognized the need to increase pressure on the junta, the sanctions on MOGE contain exemptions tailor-made to protect Big Oil. They give the French government the discretion to decide whether TotalEnergies can exit Myanmar and hand its investment over to MOGE, increasing the share of the revenues available to the junta. 

“The exemptions also make provisions for decommissioning TotalEnergies’ and Chevron’s gas project, which is commendable, but it appears that TotalEnergies may well try to stretch the vague wording to continue undermining Myanmar’s democracy movement in two key ways: first, by ensuring that TotalEnergies can funnel another 250 million dollars into the junta’s coffers before it exits; and second, by bringing in a new operator to continue helping the junta to loot revenues after TotalEnergies leaves. 

“If TotalEnergies asks the French government to authorize either step, it will constitute further complicity in the junta’s atrocity crimes. If the French government gives such approvals, it will undermine the very purpose of the sanctions along with Myanmar’s democracy movement. It would amount to France allowing EU sanctions to take effect only once a French company has slipped out of the country. 

“Instead, Macron’s government and TotalEnergies must do all they can to ensure revenues do not reach the junta. TotalEnergies must immediately order gas revenue payments to be made into protected accounts outside the reach of the junta. TotalEnergies and France should engage in meaningful consultation with Myanmar stakeholders, including civil society and the National Unity Government of elected lawmakers, which has stated that bringing in a new operator is nothing short of collusion with the junta. Responsible divestment cannot ignore Myanmar stakeholders, especially when the National Unity Government has a claim to be Myanmar’s legitimate government and TotalEnergies’ real business partner. 

“These EU sanctions can, of course, be more easily evaded by operators of Myanmar’s other gas projects for as long as the U.S. government refuses to act and continues to allow billions in U.S. dollar transactions to fund the junta’s crimes against humanity.” 

Kate Fried, EarthRights International
(202) 257.0057