The Moattama Gas Transportation Company (MGTC), which transports gas from the Total-operated Yadana gas field offshore Myanmar, has suspended all cash distributions to shareholders as the security situation in the nation continues to deteriorate following the 1 February military coup.

“In light of the unstable context in Myanmar, following a joint proposal by Total and Chevron at the occasion of a shareholders’ meeting of MGTC held on 12 May, cash distributions to the shareholders of the company have been suspended,” said French energy major Total.

The decision to suspend is effective from 1 April 2021 and all cash distributions by MGTC to its shareholders - Total (31.24%), US supermajor Chevron (28.26%), Thailand’s national upstream company PTTEP (25.5%) and state-owned Myanma Oil & Gas Enterprise (MOGE) (15%) - are suspended.

MGTC’s gas transportation system carries the gas produced from the Yadana field in blocks M-5 and M-6 offshore Myanmar some 400 kilometres to the Myanmar/Thailand border.

Total added that it continues to act as a responsible operator of the Yadana field, maintaining the production of gas in accordance with applicable laws, so as not to disrupt the electricity supply that is vital to the local populations of Myanmar and Thailand.

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Human rights violations condemned

“Total condemns the violence and human rights abuses occurring in Myanmar and reaffirms that it will comply with any decision that may be taken by the relevant international and national authorities, including applicable sanctions issued by the EU or the US authorities,” said the Yadana operator.

Chevron said that it too condemns the violence and human rights abuses occurring in Myanmar.

“We stand with the people of Myanmar and the global community in urging for a peaceful resolution that respects the will of the people,” the US company said on Wednesday.

Chevron’s affiliate, Unocal Myanmar Offshore Company (UMOCL), has been in Myanmar since the early 1990s. UMOCL holds a minority, non-operated interest in the Yadana project, which produces natural gas for domestic use and export to Thailand.

“The humanitarian crisis in Myanmar requires a collective response to improve the welfare of the people of Myanmar. We are prepared to do what we can to support immediate needs and long-term development as soon as the situation allows,” added Chevron.

The company acknowledged there are calls for further action against the military regime, saying it would “comply with any sanctions imposed by the US government”.

“Some people have called for the gas to be shut off – while others ask that funds to MOGE, Myanmar’s state-owned energy company and primary regulator, be placed in escrow. Any actions should be carefully considered to ensure the people of Myanmar are not further disadvantaged by unintended and unpredictable consequences of well-intentioned decisions,” added Chevron.

Gas produced by the Yadana project is used to supply electricity for approximately half the population of Yangon, Myanmar’s commercial capital and also for people in Thailand.

“Effectively turning off the power to half of Yangon’s homes, schools and hospitals – in the middle of a state of emergency and a pandemic – risks creating even more hardship,” said Chevron.

The Yadana co-venturer also noted there had been debate on the benefits of the continued presence of US business in Myanmar.

“We believe responsible companies like ours that work to protect the human rights of their employees and support local communities with basic human needs including healthcare, education and energy, have a role to play in Myanmar today and in the future,” said Chevron.

“We also consider that any action we take in breach of agreements and laws may open the door for another company that doesn’t share our values to take our place.

No new investment

“Bearing this in mind, the Yadana project operator, Total, has announced it will discontinue new investment in Myanmar and will continue only to produce gas to meet the needs of the people and businesses who rely on it. We support that position.

“We also support the decision by shareholders in the pipeline company to suspend payment of the dividend to shareholders, including MOGE, which is permitted under the terms of the relevant contract.”

Security forces killed more than 800

Since the 1 February coup that overthrew the duly elected government, Myanmar’s military has responded with increasing brutality to nationwide pro-democracy protests. State security forces have killed more than 820 people and detained an estimated 4300 activists, journalists, civil servants and politicians, Human Rights Watch on Monday said.

Chevron said the situation is “undoubtedly complex” in Myanmar and that the company shares the desire for lasting solutions; saying it would continue to engage constructively with governments, responsible business and civil society to help deliver a brighter future for Myanmar.

The Statement by Concerned Businesses Operating in Myanmar that oil companies including Total, Chevron, Woodside, MPRL and Eni signed, states: “We hope to see a swift resolution of the current situation based on dialogue and reconciliation in accordance with the will and interests of the people of Myanmar.”

The international community, such as the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) has a key role in helping to create the conditions for this outcome, added Chevron.

“What is most needed right now are thoughtful, concerted and constructive actions that put Myanmar back on the path to being a peaceful and prosperous nation, avoiding further harm to its people during a humanitarian crisis.”