Human rights groups are urging the French president to stop TotalEnergies making a final $250 million payment to the Myanmar junta as the supermajor prepares to exit this month from the Southeast Asian nation.
More than 450 rights groups have called on France’s President Emmanuel Macron to stop French energy giant TotalEnergies paying a reported quarter of a billion dollars to state-owned Myanma Oil & Gas Enterprise (MOGE).
In an open letter, the civil society organisations called on Macron to “refuse to authorise TotalEnergies’ use of exemptions to (European Union) sanctions”.
“We appreciate your support of Myanmar’s pro-democracy movement and your refusal to legitimise the junta after their illegal power grab on 1 February 2021. This is not enough, however, when French company TotalEnergies is bankrolling this genocidal junta, funding its war crimes and crimes against humanity and ignoring the demands of Myanmar people, the owner of the natural resources,” the letter read.
Thailand’s PTTEP on 20 July is set to take over operatorship of TotalEnergies’ flagship Yadana gas project offshore Myanmar as the French company pulls out of the country.
However, TotalEnergies has one further payment to make to MOGE, which the French government needs to approve in light of EU sanctions against some Myanmar government entities.
A TotalEnergies’ spokesperson told Upstream: "What is stated by BMC (Blood Money Campaign) is absolutely inaccurate. TotalEnergies does not pay funds to MOGE and there is no "final payment" from TotalEnergies to MOGE."
Blood Money Campaign, which aims to pressure companies that conduct business with Myanmar’s military junta to stop their activities, claimed: “The military took control of MOGE in a coup in February 2021, seized $1.5 billion worth of gas revenues, and since then has killed over 2000 pro-democracy supporters.”
Nay San Lwin, co-founder of the Free Rohingya Coalition, told independent media research institution Middle East Monitor: “What we are asking from the French government is not to allow them [TotalEnergies] to make this payment and to keep this money in a protected account so it can be transferred once Myanmar has a democratically elected government.”
Total Energies paid the Myanmar authorities $230 million in 2019 and $176 million in 2020 in taxes and production revenues, France24 has reported.
In February, the EU expanded sanctions on Myanmar to include MOGE, despite previous rounds excluding oil and gas companies. The sanctions mean that TotalEnergies needs the French government's approval to authorise its payment.
"In other words, the French government has the ability to stop TotalEnergies from allowing further gas revenues from reaching the criminal junta," added Nay San Lwin, who is also a representative for the Blood Money Campaign in Europe.
The Blood Money Campaign also has Yadana partner US supermajor Chevron and South Korea's Posco Energy, which operates the producing Shwe field offshore Myanmar, in its sights but its current focus is on TotalEnergies because of the upcoming payment to MOGE.