February 1, 2024, Washington, D.C.–Today marks three years since the Myanmar (Burma) military junta launched its brutal coup, committing well-documented war crimes and crimes against humanity and shattering the country’s fragile democratic transition. The coup has not been successful. Armed conflict has intensified since October 2023, as the junta struggles to hold on to the limited parts of the country within its control, forcing another 600,000 people from their homes as it targets civilians with airstrikes and burns down villages. Throughout this time, U.S. fossil fuel corporation Chevron has continued to do business in Myanmar.
Offshore fossil gas projects provide the junta with its principal revenue stream among non-black market activities, with the single largest cash flow coming from Chevron’s Yadana gas project. Monthly payments from Yadana, which flow through the Myanma Oil and Gas Enterprise (MOGE), can exceed US$60 million a month. Although this money is owed to the Myanmar government, and no country has recognized the military junta as the Government of Myanmar, the junta has illegally taken control of MOGE, and Chevron has continued doing business with the military-controlled agency.
In February 2022, the European Union announced sanctions on MOGE. In October 2023, the U.S. government announced partial sanctions on MOGE that went into effect on December 15, 2023, prohibiting U.S. persons from providing financial services that benefit MOGE, including dollar transfers. U.S. sanctions on Myanmar banks have also substantially disrupted the junta’s ability to collect revenues from natural resource projects. However, the U.S. restrictions continue to allow Chevron to do business with the junta in other currencies.
In January 2024, the U.S. government reiterated these sanctions in an updated, supplemental advisory for those doing business in Myanmar that warns of extensive human rights and money laundering risks in the natural resource sectors.
EarthRights’ Kirk Herbertson, Senior Policy Advisor issued the following statement:
“Chevron rescued the previous Myanmar military junta from financial collapse in the early 2000s and is doing so again as the country is engulfed by civil war. Chevron has used its leverage to keep revenues flowing illegally into the hands of the coup leaders, ensuring that the junta can continue fueling its air strikes on civilians and arming its death squads. Despite repeated calls from international civil society, Chevron has refused to change its business practices.
“Early in the coup, civil society groups and some of Chevron’s shareholders called on the corporation to channel revenues owed to the Myanmar government from offshore gas projects into escrow accounts, rather than allow the junta to illegally seize and misappropriate these revenues. Chevron refused to make attempts to divert revenues and instead used its leverage to lobby the United States not to enact sanctions on MOGE. Chevron claimed that Thailand – an important U.S. ally – was reliant on Myanmar gas imports even as it crushed production from Thailand’s largest gas field in a dispute with the Thai government. The doubt and confusion created by Chevron’s lobbying contributed to Congress’ and the U.S. government’s delayed and incomplete efforts to cut off the junta’s access to gas revenues.
“When TotalEnergies exited Myanmar in 2022, Chevron increased its interest in the Yadana project, becoming the largest investor with a 40% stake. As the Yadana project’s output has declined, Chevron and its fellow investor PTTEP appear to have taken steps to maximize exports to Thailand and cut Myanmar’s domestic supplies as blackouts spread across the country. Meanwhile, the project’s investors have reportedly changed bank accounts and perhaps even currencies to sidestep U.S. sanctions on MOGE. The original Yadana contracts require Chevron to consent to any currency changes.
“After saying it would like to do more to stop the human rights abuses but could be forced out of Myanmar and replaced by a company that ‘does not share our values,’ Chevron has been trying to sell its interest to a Canadian company, MTI Energy. MTI has deleted its website, has no public human rights commitments, and has refused to engage with civil society. Chevron has also refused to answer questions from EarthRights over this sale and its funding of human rights abuses in Myanmar.
“Chevron assures its investors that it follows the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights and the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises on Responsible Business Conduct, two leading standards for how corporations are expected to act as responsible global citizens. According to these international standards, Chevron should avoid contributing to human rights abuses in Myanmar and use its leverage to prevent, mitigate, and remedy abuses.
“Instead of acting responsibly, Chevron has continued business as usual with the military junta, and in doing so, has become complicit in the ongoing atrocities and the growing humanitarian crisis. Shareholders, even minority ones, have a responsibility under the UN Guiding Principles and OECD Guidelines to respond in extreme circumstances such as these. Chevron has largely ignored its investors, however, placating them with disinformation about what leverage it has and the impacts of using it, while giving them vague assurances that it will exit Myanmar responsibly. After three years of Chevron’s complicity, any responsible shareholder in Chevron has no option but to divest.”
Elaine Godwin (they/them)
Communications Coordinator, EarthRights International