French energy giant TotalEnergies announced its decision on Friday to end its business in Myanmar due to its deteriorating human rights situation, making it the latest multinational company to leave the country since the start of a coup last year.
The company said it would withdraw from the country both as an operator and shareholder, without any financial compensation for TotalEnergies.
The French energy company said, in line with its clear principles, it gradually halted all its ongoing projects, except for gas production from the Yadana field, which is essential for supplying electricity to the local Burmese and Thai population to protect its employees from the risk of criminal prosecution or forced labor.
The company said it has also been unable to meet the expectations of many stakeholders who are calling on it to stop revenues from going to the Burmese state through the state-owned company MOGE from the Yadana field production.
“In fact, this is materially impossible for TotalEnergies, as most of the payments for the sale of the gas are made directly by the (state-owned) Thai company PTT, the buyer of the exported gas,” it said.
It further explained that the company has exhausted other options, including asking the French authorities to consider putting in place targeted sanctions that would confine all the financial flows of the various partners to escrow accounts without shutting down gas production. However, the company said it has not identified any means of doing so.
The situation, in terms of human rights and more generally the rule of law, has worsened in Myanmar since the coup of February 2021 and led the company to reassess the situation, “which no longer allows TotalEnergies to make a sufficiently positive contribution in the country,” TotalEnergies said.
The withdrawal will be effective at the latest at the expiry of the six-month contractual period.
The Myanmar military, known locally as the Tatmadaw, launched a military coup in February last year and jailed prominent leaders of the ruling party.
According to the Myanmar-based Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, some 1,447 people were killed and nearly 8,500 demonstrators have been arrested in the military’s brutal crackdown on mass protests and rebellion against their rule.
By Sibel Morrow