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Energy giants Total and Chevron quit Myanmar over human rights abuses

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Energy giants Total and Chevron quit Myanmar over human rights abuses

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TotalEnergies and Chevron, two of the world’s largest energy conglomerates, said on Friday they were halting all operations in Myanmar, citing widespread human rights abuses and the deterioration of the rule of law since the military of the country overthrew the elected government.

The announcement comes at a time when Total is calling for international sanctions against Myanmar’s oil and gas sector, which remains one of the main sources of funding for the military government.

The sanctions would target the state-owned Myanma Oil and Gas Enterprise (MOGE), which is a joint venture partner in all offshore gas projects in Myanmar, including Yadana with Total, Chevron and PTT Exploration & Production in Thailand.

Total owns a majority stake in the company and manages its day-to-day operations, while MOGE collects revenue on behalf of the government.

“Since the February 1 coup, we have seen the evolution of the country and it is clearly not favorable: the situation of rule of law and human rights in Myanmar has clearly deteriorated over the months and despite civil disobedience movements, the junta has continued to be in power and our analysis is that this is unfortunately for the long term,” Total said.

Since taking power, the army has brutally suppressed dissent, kidnapping young men and boys, killing health care workers and torturing prisoners.

A former Total employee in Myanmar who campaigned against the company’s ties to the military government said she was shocked and delighted by the decision, although she acknowledged it would be difficult to find work elsewhere.

“For employees who still work for Total, this is bad news even if they oppose the dictatorship or fight against the military. But for me, as an ordinary person and not as an employee, I will say that this is great news,” she told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because she feared reprisals from the government.

Total said it would withdraw without financial compensation and cede its interests to other stakeholders.

About half of Myanmar’s foreign exchange comes from natural gas revenues, and it is expected to earn 1.3 billion euros from offshore and pipeline projects in 2021-22, according to Myanmar government forecasts. Previous rounds of US and EU sanctions against Myanmar’s military have excluded oil and gas.

In a statement released shortly after Total’s announcement, Chevron said it also planned to leave “in light of the circumstances.” The company condemned the human rights abuses and said it would comply with any international sanctions. There was no specific timeline for Chevron’s exit, but Total said it expected his departure to be finalized within six months.

Myanmar-based human rights group Blood Money Campaign called on companies to ensure that future payments are made to accounts inaccessible to the military and to “stop treating the criminal junta as a legitimate government”.

Human Rights Watch welcomed the decision.

“The next step is to ensure that gas revenues do not continue to fund these atrocities,” said Ken Roth, the organization’s executive director.

PTT Exploration & Production, the Thai company, said it was considering its options “putting the utmost importance on the energy security of Thailand and Myanmar and preventing impacts on energy demand on the livelihoods of the inhabitants of the two countries”.

The Yadana field is expected to be depleted over the next few years and was nearing the end of its operations. The two companies had previously halted dividend payments for the project in Myanmar. But the move had limited impact on the revenues of state-owned Myanma Oil and Gas Enterprise or the military-controlled government.

Energy giants Total and Chevron quit Myanmar over human rights abuses

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