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Chevron, Total exit Myanmar over deteriorating human rights

The energy giants were under growing pressure over their operations in the country, where the oil and gas sector is one of the military government’s main sources of revenue.
Total SE Grandpuits Oil Refinery Ahead of AGM
A TotalEnergies oil refinery in Grandpuits-Bailly-Carrois, France, on May 27, 2021. Cyril Marcilhacy / Bloomberg via Getty Images

PARIS — TotalEnergies and Chevron, two of the world’s largest energy conglomerates, said Friday they were stopping all operations in Myanmar, citing rampant human rights abuses and deteriorating rule of law since the country’s military overthrew the government.

The announcement came just a day after the French company called for international sanctions targeting the oil and gas sector, which remains one of the military government’s primary sources of funding.

Total and Chevron had come under increasing pressure over their role in running the offshore Yadana gas field, along with Thailand’s PTT Exploration & Production. Total has a majority stake in the venture and runs its daily operations, while the state-owned Myanma Oil and Gas Enterprise (MOGE) is also a stakeholder and collects revenues on behalf of the Myanmar government.

“Since the Feb. 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 months and despite the civil disobedience movements, the junta has kept power and our analysis is that it’s unfortunately for the long term,” Total said.

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Since the takeover, the military has cracked down brutally against dissent, abducting young men and boys, killing health care workers and torturing prisoners.

Total said it would withdraw without financial compensation and hand over its interests to the other stakeholders.

About 50 percent of Myanmar’s foreign currency comes from natural gas revenues, with MOGE expected to earn $1.5 billion from offshore and pipeline projects in 2021-2022, according to a Myanmar government forecast. Prior rounds of U.S. and European sanctions against the Myanmar military have excluded oil and gas.

In a statement released shortly after Total’s announcement, Chevron said it too was planning to leave “in light of circumstances.” The company has condemned the human rights abuses and said it would comply with any international sanctions.

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

Human Rights Watch welcomed the decision.

“The next step is to ensure that gas revenues don’t continue to fund those atrocities,” said Ken Roth, executive director of the organization.