French energy giant Total pushes for Myanmar sanctions
French energy conglomerate TotalEnergies has asked the American and French governments to support targeted sanctions against Myanmar’s oil and gas funds, the largest single source of income for the country’s military leaders.
In a letter to Human Rights Watch released on Thursday, January 20, the CEO of Total, Patrick Pouyanné, said the company was using all the tools at its disposal to stop funding the junta that took over Myanmar’s government and its bank accounts in February 2021, including those that receive hundreds of millions of dollars each year from the Yadana gas field.
Since the takeover, the military has moved against dissent with increasing brutality, abducting young men and boys, killing health care workers and torturing prisoners.
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 Thailand’s PTT Exploration & Production. Total has a majority stake in the venture and runs its daily operations, while MOGE collects revenues on behalf of the government.
Total said only sanctions imposed by the United States and European Union would allow it to legally stop payments entirely.
Pouyanné wrote that the company has informed French and US authorities that it “supports the implementation of such targeted sanctions” and formally requested the French Foreign Ministry to create a framework for them.
About 50 per cent of Myanmar’s foreign currency comes from natural gas revenues, with MOGE expected to earn US$1.5 billion from offshore and pipeline projects from 2021 to 2022, according to a Myanmar government forecast.
“The fact that both TotalEnergies and human rights groups now support sanctions on Myanmar’s gas revenues leaves the US and [the] European Union without any excuses to delay action,” said John Sifton, Asia advocacy director at Human Rights Watch.