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Southeast Asia

Major gas firms to leave Myanmar over human rights record

Published : Jan 22, 2022 18:20 IST T+T-

TotalEnergies' announcement comes after calling for gas and oil sanctions against the military junta.

Chevron and TotalEnergies are set to exit projects in Myanmar almost a year after the military coup.

Fossil fuel giants TotalEnergies and Chevron said on January 21 that they were ending all their operations in Myanmar because of the deteriorating human rights situation since the military junta took power. The two companies were major stakeholders in a joint venture with other firms operating the Yadana gas project off Myanmar's coast. "The situation, in terms of human rights and more generally the rule of law, which have kept worsening in Myanmar since the coup of February 2021, has led us to reassess the situation and no longer allows TotalEnergies to make a sufficiently positive contribution in the country," the French company said in a statement.

Minimal losses for the companies

TotalEnergies said it had "initiated the contractual process of withdrawing from the Yadana field" and other operations "without any financial compensation" for the company. It went on to add that the financial impact would be minimal. The Yadana gas field is also expected to be exhausted in the next few years. Total said it was planning to finalize its exit within six months. Chevron did not provide a specific time frame for its withdrawal.

"Financial considerations have never been crucial in this matter. Our operations in Myanmar amounted to $105 million in 2021, equivalent to less than 1 per cent of the company's income," a TotalEnergies spokesperson said. The French company had held a 31.24 per cent stake in the project, and Chevron had 28 per cent. Thai and Myanmar state-owned companies held the rest.

Calls for sanctions against oil and natural gas

"Our immediate priority remains the safety and well-being of employees, safe operations and the supply of much-needed energy for the people of Myanmar and Thailand," Chevron said on January 21, shortly after Total's announcement. The company also condemned the junta's human rights record and pledged to comply with international sanctions.

Myanmar gets about half of its foreign currency — necessary for the import of foreign goods and technologies — from the sale of natural gas. Offshore and pipeline projects are expected to bring in about $1.5 billion (€1.3 billion) in annual revenues. Western sanctions against the country have so far excluded oil and gas sales, but Total on January 20 called for these areas to be included. Hundreds of people have been killed by the military junta since it overthrew the elected government and arrested civilian leaders, including Aung San Suu Kyi, in February.

ab/sms (Reuters, AP)

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