Operators of upstream facilities in Myanmar are already feeling the impact of this week's shock coup, which saw the military declare a one-year state of emergency.

Myanmar's military took control of the country in the early hours of 1 February and detained de facto leader and Noble Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi.

The military said it was handing power to commander-in-chief Min Aung Hlaing because of what it claimed was "election fraud".

Australia’s Woodside Petroleum in January kicked off a three-well deep-water wildcatting programme on blocks A-7, AD-1 and AD-8 offshore Myanmar.


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“Access to some infrastructure is limited, and as a result we have postponed some logistical activities while we await further clarity,” a Woodside spokesperson told Upstream this week.

“Noting our current 2021 drilling campaign, we are working with our stakeholders to understand how these planned activities may possibly be impacted and preparing our forward plan.”

She added that communications remain fully operational in the turbulent Southeast Asian nation and the company's personnel are "accounted for, safe and well".

Woodside currently has less than 100 direct employees and dependents in Myanmar.

However, logistics could become even more challenging for exploration and production players in Myanmar, not least because the military has now imposed a ban on international and domestic flights until 31 May.

Anglo-Dutch supermajor Shell and local company Myanmar Petroleum Exploration & Production partner Woodside on Block A-7, while China National Petroleum Corporation is the Australian operator’s sole — and equal — co-venturer in blocks AD-1 and AD-8.

Thailand’s national upstream company PTTEP told Upstream that it is currently business as usual at its producing Zawtika gas field offshore Myanmar.

“PTTEP … still maintains its normal operation of gas production at the Zawtika project, as well as other joint ventures operations including the Yadana and the Yetagun projects (in which it is a partner) in order to ensure energy security," the company said.

“PTTEP International has a business continuity plan in place to keep its business in Myanmar running smoothly and efficiently. The company will closely monitor the situation and provide further information should we have any updates on this.”

Rising tensions

The military coup followed weeks of increasing tensions between the military and the civilian government after the former alleged election irregularities in last November’s polls, which returned the National League of Democracy (NLD) to power with an even larger share of the vote.

Military television said a state of emergency had been declared for one year and power transferred. Soldiers are now deployed on the streets of the capital Nay Pyi Daw and the former capital and commercial city of Yangon.

Aung San Suu Kyi and President Win Myint were detained in the capital, NLD spokesman Myo Nyunt told newswire AFP, just hours before parliament had been scheduled to sit for the first time since the elections.

Aung San Suu Kyi was charged midweek, with the charges including breaching of import and export laws. She has been remanded in custody until 15 February.

International outcry

The US and Australia were quick to express their concern, calling for the release of the detained NLD leaders and the restoration of democracy.

"The United States opposes any attempt to alter the outcome of recent elections or impede Myanmar's democratic transition and will take action against those responsible if these steps are not reversed," White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said.

Australia said Myanmar's military was "once again seeking to seize control" of the country.

"We call on the military to respect the rule of law, to resolve disputes through lawful mechanisms and to release immediately all civilian leaders and others who have been detained unlawfully," Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne said.

Within hours of the coup, communications networks in Myanmar were being restricted, with some mobile phone networks reported to be out of action.

Vote fraud claims

The military for weeks had alleged irregularities in last November’s elections, claiming there were millions of instances of voter fraud.

On 28 January, the military’s commander-in-chief, Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, threatened the nation with its greatest political crisis since the transition to democracy started 13 years ago by claiming he would abolish the constitution.

“The constitution is the Mother Law. We have to follow the constitution. If the law is not respected or followed, we must abolish it. Even if it is the constitution, we must abolish it,” he said in a speech quoted by the military’s Facebook page.

However, just two days later, the military released an official statement, clarifying Min Aung Hlaing remarks, saying it would "only act within the boundary of existing laws".

Election wins

The NLD won landslide victories in both the 2015 and 2020 general elections, which gave the party a clear majority, even though a quarter of the seats are reserved for the military.

The 2008 Constitution allows for democratic elections, while ensuring the military retains control over certain key institutions.

However, even seasoned politicians and key non-governmental organisations did not believe the military would actually stage a coup, despite the recent rhetoric.

A NLD parliamentarian, requesting anonymity, told Al Jazeera he never took the military’s threat seriously.

“A dog that will bite never barks. So we do not believe that there will be a coup. In the past throughout history, whenever the military staged a coup, they never announced in advance,” he said.