January 31, 2022 – Tomorrow marks the one-year anniversary of the military coup in Myanmar. EarthRights Executive Director Ka Hsaw Wa today issued the following statement:
“Since February 1, 2021, Myanmar’s military has upended life in the country, destabilized the region, and pushed millions into a humanitarian crisis. More than 1,450 people have died, and nearly 12,000 have been arrested. Fossil fuel corporations must end their complicity in this crisis. The U.S. government must take urgent action to cut off revenues to this bloody regime.
“Gas revenues in Myanmar are the junta’s largest source of foreign currency and are essentially funding a civil war. Despite recent statements by oil companies TotalEnergies and Chevron that they will withdraw from the country, every month, they and other companies continue to facilitate the transfer of millions of U.S. dollars in payments for gas revenues to Myanmar’s military. The revenues are received by an illegal, criminal junta that has taken control of government bank accounts and is actively misappropriating state assets.
“The fossil fuel industry has a long history of imposing violence on the people of Myanmar. In the early 1990s, Unocal (now Chevron) and Total joined with the Burmese army to militarize the route of the Yadana gas pipeline, resulting in forced labor, land grabs, torture, rape, extrajudicial killings, and attacks on Indigenous and ethnic minority communities. Yadana revenues then sustained the military regime and its crimes throughout the 2000s.
“Those who witnessed these atrocities first-hand over 25 years ago are devastated to watch the fossil fuel industry again support the Myanmar military’s human rights abuses. For the past year, Total and Chevron resisted calls to act responsibly. Total continues to assert that it has no control over gas revenues, yet each month it orders a gas buyer, the Thai state-owned company PTT, to transfer millions of dollars to accounts that are owed to the Government of Myanmar but are seized by the junta. Meanwhile, Chevron has lobbied the U.S. government to block stronger diplomatic action.
“While the companies recently announced plans to withdraw from Myanmar, they are slipping out just before the gas runs out in 2025 and plan to keep funding the junta until they leave, ordering the transfer of up to another 250 million US dollars. Then they will bring in a new operator to continue looting the assets of the Myanmar people. They must divest responsibly–working in consultation with the National Unity Government and civil society to ensure that the junta can no longer misappropriate gas revenues.
“Last week, the U.S. Government issued an advisory to warn of the heightened risks of doing business in Myanmar, and in particular with the military junta. We are pleased that the U.S. Government recognized that doing business with the junta can be a crime under U.S. money-laundering laws. We hope that banks are already taking action to cut off their connections to the junta and that businesses are divesting responsibly when they are unable to operate in Myanmar without enriching the junta. Unless further action is taken, the military junta will continue to seize around US$1.5 billion in revenue each year from Myanmar’s natural gas projects.
“EarthRights calls on the Biden administration to engage aggressively with TotalEnergies and Chevron to ensure that they divest responsibly. The administration also needs to put targeted sanctions in place to ensure that gas revenues do not continue to flow into the hands of this murderous regime. These actions could save countless lives.”
Kate Fried, EarthRights International