New EarthRights analysis underscores why the Biden administration must resist oil company disinformation and sanction Myanmar’s gas sector.
January 24, 2023, Washington, D.C.— Just weeks ahead of the second anniversary of the military’s coup in Myanmar, EarthRights International today released research that contradicts the Biden administration’s and the oil industry’s claims that sanctioning Myanmar’s gas sector would negatively affect Thailand’s energy security. Analysis by EarthRights confirms that due to its high energy reserves and substantial import capacity, Thailand has sufficient energy to meet its needs and is not dependent on Myanmar gas.
Gas revenues are the largest source of foreign currency available to the Myanmar military junta. Early in its February 2021 coup, the military seized control of revenue flows to the Myanma Oil and Gas Enterprise (MOGE) – the Myanmar government office that collects revenues from the country’s lucrative offshore gas projects – and is now using these revenues to wage war on the people of Myanmar. While the Biden administration has recognized that the revenues are these fueling attacks, it has neglected to take effective measures to sanction Myanmar’s gas sector. Research from EarthRights estimates that the junta illegally seizes as much as 2.1 billion USD annually.
“The military coup in Myanmar has destabilized the region and pushed millions into a humanitarian crisis,” said Kirk Herbertson, Senior Policy Advisor for EarthRights. “Gas from Myanmar’s offshore projects fuels human rights abuses and the climate crisis. Meanwhile, fossil fuel majors such as Chevron continue spreading disinformation, exploiting concerns about Thailand’s energy security to justify keeping the gas flowing. This is nothing but hot air. The Biden administration must stop acquiescing to fossil fuel companies and enact more meaningful sanctions on Myanmar’s gas revenues.”
Last February, the EU imposed sanctions on MOGE. While the U.S. has imposed sanctions on Myanmar’s coup leaders, it has to date avoided sanctioning MOGE, citing fears of undermining Thailand’s energy security. But EarthRights published analysis in September 2021 showing that Thailand was not dependent on Myanmar gas for its energy security and that it is unlikely that U.S. sanctions or the diversion of revenues would lead to gas production stoppage. In fact, Thailand is highly resilient to energy shocks. Since then, Thailand has become even more energy secure, a trend that is likely to continue.
In June 2022, the Nong Fab LNG import facility came online, increasing Thailand’s LNG import capacity by 65 percent. Nong Fab’s capacity alone surpasses all imports from Myanmar by at least 50 percent. This shows that when Thailand’s LNG imports peaked in 2022, there was sufficient unused capacity to replace Myanmar gas with fuel oil as a further backup. This large LNG overcapacity reflects Thailand’s preparations for the expected declines in Myanmar and Thai gas production and its hope of becoming a regional LNG hub. Furthermore, in 2022, several Thai power plant operators switched from gas to fuel oil to reduce costs as global energy prices soared. This resulted in a decrease in gas consumption in the country’s power sector by seven percent.
“Even if gas revenue sanctions led to the termination of gas exports from Myanmar to Thailand, the only impact on Thailand would be a modest increase in electricity prices–far less than those incurred by countries weaning themselves off Russian gas, added Herbertson. “Regardless, this concern pales in comparison to those shared by the people of Myanmar experiencing and witnessing human rights atrocities. Protecting them by stopping the illegal flow of funds to the junta should be the U.S.’s and the international community’s top priority.”
Kate Fried, EarthRights International