On February 1, 2021, Myanmar’s military overthrew an elected government. Although the military has claimed that it is following Myanmar’s 2008 Constitution, there is no credible legal argument for this position. The military junta, known as the State Administration Council (SAC), has not been recognized as the legitimate government of Myanmar by the United Nations nor any government. The coup has been condemned by the U.N. Secretary-General and Myanmar’s own Ambassador to the U.N., along with numerous governments.
EarthRights International stands with communities and civil society organizations (CSOs) in Myanmar, with whom we have worked for many years. We support the people’s right to engage in non-violent protest, including through the Civil Disobedience Movement. We strongly condemn recent human rights abuses against unarmed protestors, including dozens of killings by security forces, as well as the unlawful arrest and detention of thousands of protestors, government officials, and civil society leaders.
We note in particular that the Myanmar Alliance for Transparency and Accountability, as well as more than 400 other CSOs, have called for oil and gas companies operating in Myanmar to cease funding the military regime. We echo their call that these companies – including Chevron and France’s Total – stop payments to the Myanmar Oil & Gas Enterprise (MOGE) or any other entity now controlled by the SAC regime. We note that workers for Total in Myanmar have walked off the job in protest, and we welcome the decision by Woodside Energy to halt operations in Myanmar.
Similarly, companies should not engage in any new contracts that provide revenue to the SAC regime, including new oil and gas development. Decisions by the military regime over natural resources are not legitimate and do not reflect community voices, which are essential to protecting human rights and the environment. Natural gas projects in particular, which provide one of the largest sources of income to the regime, provide little direct benefits to the people of Myanmar – especially when they have no control over their natural resources.
The international community, including the United Nations, international financial institutions, and the governments of the United States and other nations, should also take all available steps to block financial support of the military. This should include blocking payments by companies to MOGE and other military-controlled entities, as well as sanctions on companies owned by the military itself, including the Myanmar Economic Corporation and Myanmar Economic Holdings, Ltd. We welcome the initial steps that have already been taken in this direction, especially by the U.S. government.
There is no legal or moral reason to make any payments to this military junta. Companies that make such payments may be exposing themselves to legal and financial risks.
The people of Myanmar have put themselves at great risk to send the clear message that they will not tolerate renewed military rule. The international community must support them.