Myanmar Activists Lobby US to Sanction Regime’s Oil and Gas Sector

By The Irrawaddy 11 May 2022

Activists are urging US President Joe Biden to impose sanctions on Myanma Oil and Gas Enterprise (MOGE), which provides a financial lifeline to Myanmar’s junta. The European Union imposed sanctions on the firm in February.

More than 637 domestic organizations, including protest committees, labor unions, women’s rights and educational groups and over 220,000 individuals signed an open letter to Biden, according to the Blood Money Campaign (BMC), which lobbies to financially isolate the junta.

The BMC called on Biden to listen to Myanmar’s people and sanction MOGE.

“The United States, it is time to stop protecting democracy only with words,” said Ko Ye, a BMC spokesman.

The group reported that the junta seized around US$1.5 billion in gas revenue from state bank accounts after the 2021 coup to fund genocide and murder.

“We don’t ask the US to provide weapons. We only ask the US to stop paying the fascist regime for natural resources,” Ko Ye said.

MOGE has been a lifeline for military governments for decades and an estimated 50 percent of foreign currency came from natural gas and Myanmar earned around $1.5 billion from oil and gas in the 2020-21 financial year, according to pre-coup forecasts.

The campaign urged the Biden administration to stop gas revenues reaching the junta by working with allies in Thailand and South Korea to divert income to accounts held until the civilian National Unity Government is recognized. 

It said gas companies and banks which traded with the junta should face money-laundering charges. It said the junta-controlled Myanma Foreign Trade Bank should face sanctions for money laundering.

International oil and gas firms like Total, Chevron and Woodside left Myanmar after the coup but the junta’s investment minister Aung Naing Oo said only 10 percent of Myanmar’s oil and gas investment came from the three firms and their withdrawal did not impact the economy. China, the largest source, provides around 27 percent of oil and gas investment.

Human rights organizations are urging Total not to pay the junta about $250 million it owes Myanmar. 

Since the coup in February last year, the regime has killed more than 1,800 people and it uses airstrikes, artillery, arson attacks, extrajudicial killings and arbitrary arrests against civilians.