Global energy firms Chevron and Total have announced they will withdraw from Myanmar, a breakthrough for activists who have campaigned for the companies to cut off what is a major source of revenue for the military junta.
In a statement, Total, which renamed itself TotalEnergies last year, cited the worsening human rights situation in Myanmar, which was plunged into chaos almost one year ago when the military seized power in a coup, ousting the democratically elected government of Aung San Su Kyi, the Guardian reports.The French company said the human rights situation and deteriorating rule of law “no longer allows TotalEnergies to make a sufficiently positive contribution in the country”. The US firm Chevron said it too was planning to leave “in light of circumstances”.
Since the coup, the military has attempted to crush any opposition to its rule, prompting civilians to form armed defence groups. At least 11,651 people have been arrested for opposing the military’s rules, while 1,488 have been killed, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, which monitors military abuses.
The announcement is a major victory for campaigners, who have called for all companies to cut commercial ties with the state-owned enterprise Myanmar Oil and Gas Enterprise (MOGE), which has deep links with the military.According to Human Rights Watch, natural gas projects in Myanmar generate more than $1bn in foreign revenue for the junta each year, its single largest source of foreign currency revenue.
TotalEnergies has operated the Yadana gas project off Myanmar’s south-west coast since the 1990s, and owns a 31.24% stake. Chevron owns 28.26% of the project, which supplies Myanmar and Thailand. PTTEP, a subsidiary of the Thai national energy company PTT, and MOGE are the remaining shareholders.
Yadanar Maung, a spokesperson for activist group Justice for Myanmar, welcomed the decision, saying: “TotalEnergies has finally taken heed of the calls of Myanmar people, local and international civil society to stop the flow of funds to the terrorist junta.”It is now essential that international governments move ahead with targeted sanctions on oil and gas to deny the junta funds from the remaining oil and gas projects.”
TotalEnergies said it had approached the French authorities to consider putting in place targeted sanctions that would “confine all the financial flows of the various partners to escrow accounts without shutting down the gas production”. The company added it had not identified any means for doing so.The firm said contractual agreements state that, in the event of withdrawal, its interests will be shared between the current partners, unless they object to such allocation, and that the role of operator will be taken over by one of the partners.