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Total, Chevron suspend payments to Myanmar junta from gas project

Berita 24 English -  Total, the French oil and gas company, and Chevron, the American energy company, have suspended payments from a gas joi...

Berita 24 English - 
Total, the French oil and gas company, and Chevron, the American energy company, have suspended payments from a gas joint venture that would have benefited Myanmar's junta, earning praise from pro-democracy activists for taking a critical first step.

International companies doing business in Myanmar have been pressed by rights groups and the country's parallel civilian government to review their operations to halt payments to a military government that seized power on Feb. 1.

Myanmar has been in chaos since the army deposed the elected government and imprisoned its leader Aung San Suu Kyi. The junta has reacted violently to daily protests, marches, and strikes across the country to support the deposed civilian administration.

Total said in a statement that it made the decision "in light of the unstable situation in Myanmar" after shareholders of the Moattama Gas Transportation Company voted to suspend all cash distributions following a joint proposal with Chevron.

Total owns 31.24 per cent of the company, while Chevron owns 28 per cent. The remainder is held by Thailand's PTTEP and Myanmar's Myanma Oil and Gas Enterprise.

"Total condemns the violence, and human rights violations occurring in Myanmar and reaffirms its commitment to comply with any decision made by relevant international and national authorities, including applicable EU or US sanctions," the statement stated."

Chevron stated in a statement: "The humanitarian crisis in Myanmar requires a concerted effort to improve the country's welfare."

Additionally, the US company stated that "any actions should be carefully considered to ensure that the people of Myanmar are not harmed further by unintended and unpredictable consequences of well-intentioned decisions."

Justice for Myanmar, an activist group, applauded the decision to suspend dividend payments, which it said would slash the junta's revenue stream.

"However, we should point out that this is a small portion of the revenue the junta receives from Total's operations in Myanmar, which also includes the state's share of gas revenues, royalties, and corporate income taxes," Justice For Myanmar spokesperson Yadanar Maung said in a statement.

The Yadana fields, located off Myanmar's southwest coast in the Gulf of Martaban, produce gas for Thai power plants. They also supply Myanmar's domestic market via an offshore pipeline constructed and operated by the country's state energy company, Myanma Oil and Gas Enterprise. Total stated that it would continue to operate the Yadana gas field "to avoid disrupting the vital electricity supply to the local populations of Myanmar and Thailand."

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