France’s TotalEnergies has approved targeted sanctions on gas revenues in Myanmar, a change that activists say could hit a significant source of funding for General Min Aung Hlaing’s military junta.
French energy giant CEO Patrick Puyane has acknowledged support for the sanctions in a letter to Human Rights Watch, which, among other human rights groups, is pushing the oil company to suspend payments to junta-controlled entities in Myanmar.
“I can confirm that in the last few months our company has talked to the French and American authorities about imposing targeted sanctions on financial flows,” Puyane said in a letter published by Human Rights Watch late Thursday.
“They are fully aware that TotalEnergies will not only comply with any decision on sanctions by European or American authorities, but also supports the application of such targeted sanctions.
Natural gas projects generate more than $ 1 billion a year for the Myanmar junta, which took power from elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi in a coup last year and arrested or killed thousands in repression.
Total manages Myanmar’s offshore gas platform Yadana and its pipelines with state-owned Myanmar Oil and Gas Enterprise, Chevron and Thai group PTT as junior partners. French and American energy groups are facing pressure after a coup by civil society groups, foreign activists and some institutional investors in Myanmar to suspend taxes and other payments to MOGE.
Total and Chevron have in the past opposed these efforts, arguing that withholding tax revenues could put local staff at risk or disrupt operations in Yadana, which supplies gas to Yangon, Myanmar’s largest city, and the West. Thailand.
Chevron and PTT did not respond immediately to requests for comment. Human Rights Watch called on the United States and France to reach a common position on sanctions.
After the coup, Myanmar became a reputable minefield for multinational companies doing business that linked them to the military regime. Norwegian telecom Telenor has been struggling to leave the country for more than a year.
On Friday, a source familiar with the matter confirmed a Reuters report that Lebanese telecommunications group M1 would partner with Myanmar’s Shwe Byain Phyu Group to bid for Telenor’s business in the Southeast Asian country.
The Norwegian-backed group agreed to sell the M1 business for $ 105 million last year after facing pressure from the regime to install interception technology. But the regime eliminated the sale, requiring M1 to take on a local partner to bid.
Myanmar’s military leaders have already approved a partnership between M1 and Shwe Byain Phyu to buy Telenor’s domestic business, with the Myanmar group holding a majority stake, according to a source familiar with the deal.
Telenor said it had applied for regulatory approval for the sale of its division in Myanmar, but declined to comment further on what it called “speculation”.
Campaigners, who pressured Telenor to leave Myanmar responsibly on Friday, criticized local M1 partner Shwe Byain Phyu, whose chairman, Thein Win Zau, is a director of a company that is an investor in the military telecommunications company Mytel.
Advocacy group Justice for Myanmar has called on Telenor to suspend the sale. “Shwe Byain Phyu is a conglomerate with some ties to the Myanmar military, and M1 has a long history of doing business with authoritarian regimes,” the group told the Financial Times. “They cannot be trusted to respect human rights.”
M1 and Shwe Byain Phyu were not found for comment.
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