Burma

Foreign Oil and Gas Companies Urged to Suspend Business Ties with Myanmar Military Regime

By The Irrawaddy 17 March 2021

Elected lawmakers from the ousted National League for Democracy government have sent a final notice calling on the largest foreign-owned oil and gas companies operating in Myanmar to suspend business ties with the military regime, warning that the money from sales of the oil and gas will be used to reinforce human rights violations in the country.

In the latest effort to overthrow the junta, the acting minister for Planning, Finance and Industry, elected by the Committee Representing Pyidaungsu Hluttaw (CRPH), sent a final notice to France’s Total SE, Malaysia’s Petronas, Thailand’s PTT and South Korea’s POSCO.

Myanmar earns around US$75 million to US$90 million per month from oil and gas sales. Almost all the earnings are paid to the government via the Myanma Oil and Gas Enterprise (MOGE), a state-owned company now controlled by the coup leaders.

As of Tuesday, almost 200 civilians have been killed by the security forces during crackdowns on peaceful anti-regime protests across the country. Moreover, the Myanmar military has long been known for committing war crimes and crimes against humanity in ethnic regions, where fighting between government troops and ethnic armed groups has intensified.

In their statement, the CPRH condemned the companies for remaining silent about the military’s Feb.1 coup and for supporting the regime with payments from oil and gas sales, despite the CPRH giving them a deadline of March 9 to impose sanctions on the junta. The CRPH said that revenue from oil and gas sales in December 2020 and January 2021 has reportedly been paid into regime-controlled bank accounts.

“We strongly condemn the companies for making payments for oil and gas sales to the regime,” the CRPH said.

The CRPH also urged the companies not to pay taxes until the democratically-elected government resumed its duties.

U Tin Tun Naing, the CRPH acting minister for Planning, Finance and Industry, said in the statement that if companies continued to make payments it would seriously undermine the Myanmar’s people efforts to return the country to democracy and that the military will be able to utilize those resources to continue their human rights violations in Myanmar.

“We urge you to take immediate action to prevent human rights abuses,” the CRPH said.

“All stakeholders should coordinate immediately to achieve democracy. This is the last time, we urge you to cooperate with the people in their struggle for the overthrow of the military dictatorship,” the CRPH added.

Total reported that it paid US$257 million to Myanmar in 2019 in taxes and other payments.

Petronas’s Yetagun gas project paid US$208 million to the government in 2018 while the Shwe project, run by South Korea’s POSCO, paid US$194 million, according to Myanmar Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (MEITI).

The Zawtika gas project, run by Thailand’s PTT, paid US$41 million in 2018, while the government also earned another US$300 million in 2018 from fees paid by companies to use gas export pipelines.

The rights group Justice for Myanmar (JFM) has also voiced concerns that oil and gas revenue will bankroll the military regime and enrich its leaders.

“As Myanmar’s generals look for revenue to prop up their new dictatorship following the February 1 coup, there’s one source of money they can count on: natural gas projects backed by foreign investors,” said JFM.

“If it’s business as usual, foreign investors in Myanmar’s oil and gas will be funding an illegitimate and brutal military regime as they did before 2011, when the country was under full military rule.” JFM warned.

JFM said that the coup has left international oil and gas companies with no option but to end their relationship with MOGE and the military regime that now controls it. JFM urged the international community to impose immediate targeted sanctions against MOGE and all other military-controlled businesses.

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