French oil company withdraws from the country but allows gas revenues to continue fueling military atrocities.
July 21, 2022, Washington, D.C.– French oil company TotalEnergies this week completed its deeply irresponsible exit from Myanmar, leaving U.S.-based Chevron as the largest investor in a gas project propping up a genocidal military.
EarthRights Director of Strategy and Campaigns Keith Slack issued the following statement:
“Congress has an opportunity to break a stalemate that is blocking meaningful support for democracy activists in Myanmar by passing the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). On January 21 of this year, the French company TotalEnergies (Total) announced plans to withdraw from the controversial Yadana offshore gas project that provides the Myanmar military with one of its largest sources of revenue. Since February 2021, Myanmar has been besieged by a military junta that has destabilized the region and pushed millions into a humanitarian crisis.
“To date, the military junta has committed countless human rights atrocities, murdering more than 2,000 people while more than 11,000 are still detained. Multinational gas companies finance the junta’s abuses, undermining the democratic resistance of the people of Myanmar.
“Total divested in a highly irresponsible manner, ignoring the fact that its contracts were with the government of Myanmar, as represented by the Myanma Oil and Gas Enterprise (MOGE), a government agency. This gave it an obligation not to do business with the military or treat it as a counterparty to its contracts because the military is not recognized as the government of Myanmar.
“Instead, Total facilitated monthly payments to junta-controlled accounts until its exit and elected to transfer some of its shares and interests to MOGE, fully aware that its bank accounts are under junta control. Total also brought in a new operator that will ensure that the junta can continue to finance its human rights atrocities by seizing gas revenues. These actions leave Total complicit in the junta’s atrocities and directly contradict demands from Myanmar’s elected lawmakers in the National Unity Government.
“Chevron is now the largest investor in Yadana, while PTTEP is the operator. Rather than allowing revenues from offshore gas projects to continue to flow to the military, Chevron and PTTEP must act more responsibly than Total. These companies should support sanctions, acknowledge that their contracts are with the government of Myanmar and not the junta, and use all possible measures, including arbitration if necessary, to divert gas revenues and save them for use by a legitimate, democratically elected government. Chevron has ignored calls to do so from its own shareholders and is instead choosing to prop up a genocidal military.
“To date, the Biden administration has shied away from placing sanctions on Myanmar’s gas revenues, largely out of fear of upsetting Thailand, which buys much of the gas from the offshore projects. The Biden administration hopes that Thailand will be an ally in efforts to counter China’s rising influence in the region. Yet research by EarthRights and others shows that sanctions on gas revenues would not pose a significant risk to Thailand’s interests while military rule will leave Myanmar dependent on China.
“The U.S. Congress can play a role in supporting Myanmar’s democracy movement and ending the military’s human rights abuses by encouraging the Biden administration to act more boldly. The U.S. House of Representatives recently passed the NDAA, which includes language requiring the administration to place sanctions on MOGE.
“Now it’s up to the Senate to help bring relief to the people of Myanmar; Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell have the power to allow this legislation to proceed. Each month that the U.S. government delays action, the military junta seizes tens of millions more dollars that it can use to purchase weapons and terrorize the people of Myanmar. Enough is enough. We call on the U.S. Senate to pass the NDAA–including provisions to sanction MOGE. We urge the Biden administration to sanction gas revenues without delay.”
Kate Fried, EarthRights International