Human rights groups call for UN global arms embargo against junta

By Amanda Battersby

Myanmar’s military has stepped up its action against pro-democracy protesters, with at least three civilians killed by shooting in recent days, a deteriorating security situation that once again puts international operators there under increased global scrutiny following the recent coup.

Despite the military’s televised statement threatening to use lethal force, hundreds of anti-coup demonstrators protested on Monday in Tanintharyi region — where several overseas oil and gas players have operations — urging these companies to immediately halt working with the junta.

The protesters asked for all offshore and onshore workers to show solidarity and participate in the Civil Disobedient Movement (CDM) and called on all oil companies to stop payments to state-owned Myanma Oil & Gas Enterprise.

They also asked all oil companies to stop co-operating with the military government.

Total ‘concerned’

French supermajor Total, which operates the producing Yadana offshore gas field and associated pipeline infrastructure, said: “We are concerned with the current situation in Myanmar and we look toward a peaceful resolution via dialogue that will enable the people of Myanmar to continue their quest for a peaceful and prosperous nation.

“We will continue to work with our partners and stakeholders, including business leaders, government and non-government organisations, to foster a business environment that respects human rights.”

Meanwhile, Malaysia’s national oil company Petronas, which operates the producing Yetagun gas field offshore Myanmar, told Upstream: “As a business entity, Petronas takes a neutral and apolitical stand wherever we operate.”

International upstream players Total, Unocal (Chevron) and Australia’s Woodside — the last of which has an ongoing exploration campaign offshore Myanmar — are among companies that have signed up to the ‘Statement by Concerned Businesses Operating in Myanmar’ co-ordinated by the Myanmar Centre for Responsible Business (MCRB).

“As investors, we inhabit a ‘shared space’ with the people of Myanmar, including civil society organisations, in which we all benefit from respect for human rights, democracy and fundamental freedoms — including freedom of expression and association — and the rule of law,” a statement facilitated by the MCRB said.

The military’s violent crackdown on protesters calling for restitution of the democratically elected government and release of detained parliamentarians and pro-democracy activists has led several Western governments to impose sanctions against certain members of the Tatmadaw (Army).

“Anyone responding to peaceful protests with violence must be held to account,” G7 foreign ministers said in a joint statement on Tuesday.

However, many tweets from within Myanmar warn that words of condemnation alone will have no impact on the junta.

“Justice delayed is justice denied! How many civilian dead bodies [are] needed to make them take action? People are being killed here. Our futures are gone. And the world keep[s] condemning? We need action. Not countless statements,” Twitter user Kippo Jenniko messaged from inside Myanmar.

‘Demonstrable threat to peace and security’

The United Nations Security Council should “institute a co-ordinated, global arms embargo” against the Myanmar military, said Fortify Rights and 136 other organisations in an open letter to the body and UN member states on Wednesday.

“The Myanmar military poses a demonstrable threat to international peace and security,” said Matthew Smith, Fortify Rights chief executive.

“The Security Council should break its long history of inaction on Myanmar and immediately respond to this crisis.”

Signatories to the open letter hail from 31 countries and include Fortify Rights, Human Rights Watch and a diverse group of human rights organisations worldwide.

Dozens of Myanmar-led organisations based in the Southeast Asian nation and Rohingya-led organisations also signed the letter, demonstrating a level of inter-ethnic unity in the wake of the 1 February military coup, Fortify Rights said.

The Myanmar military “has detained the elected civilian leaders of the country, nullified the results of the November 2020 democratic elections and installed a junta, the State Administration Council, under a manufactured ‘state of emergency,’” the open letter read.

On Monday, millions of people throughout Myanmar joined the CDM by participating in a nationwide general strike and street protests.

More demonstrations were planned for Wednesday as Upstream went to press.(Copyright)