November 29, 2021, Washington, D.C.–The 10th Annual UN Forum on Business and Human Rights convenes this week. Thousands of participants from governments, international organizations, businesses, trade unions, civil society, communities, lawyers, and academia are coming together, ostensibly, to prevent and address business-related impacts on human rights. EarthRights International Executive Director Ka Hsaw Wa, a native of Burma (Myanmar), issued the following statement:
“2021 marks the 10th anniversary of U.N. Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. While oil and gas companies like Chevron and TotalEnergies have committed to following these guidelines, the reality is that Big Oil is only co-opting the language of business and human rights to justify its decision to fund the Myanmar military and its human rights atrocities.
“Since the military staged its coup in February of this year, nearly 1,300 people have been killed, and thousands more have been arbitrarily detained, while some have been convicted and sentenced to death. The U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights concluded that ongoing violations might amount to crimes against humanity. While some businesses have acted responsibly–taking steps to avoid bankrolling the coup leaders, suspending operations where this was not possible, or exploring plans to divest, others have not displayed such leadership.
“Companies like Chevron Corporation, TotalEnergies, and Posco International continue to operate offshore gas projects in Myanmar. Funds from those activities are now the military junta’s largest form of revenue. Every year, around 1.5 billion U.S. dollars are paid into bank accounts hijacked by the junta. In essence, Big Oil is funding human rights abuses in Myanmar. These companies have also made false claims regarding their ability to pull out of the country–a blatant attempt to guard profit margins.
“After ten years, it is clear that some companies would rather make empty commitments rather than take meaningful action to stop human rights abuses. That’s why EarthRights is calling on oil and gas companies to support measures to stop revenues from fossil fuel activity from reaching the junta. We also urge Congress to quickly pass the Burma Act of 2021, which calls on the Biden administration to impose sanctions on the Myanmar military and its cronies.
“Money from fossil fuel activity is as dirty as fossil fuels themselves. We must end the military regimes’ reign of terror in Myanmar. That means cutting off the money that funds its human rights abuses once and for all.”
Kate Fried, EarthRights International