Parallel civilian government reaches out to operators as security situation deteriorates

By Amanda Battersby

 

Myanmar’s parallel civilian government has joined human rights groups in calling on leading oil and gas companies with operations in the nation to stop all payments to the military junta that seized power in a 1 February coup.

The group of democratically elected politicians — who have named themselves the Committee Representing Pyidaungsu Hluttaw (CRPH) — urged operators to suspend paying revenues to state-owned Myanma Oil & Gas Enterprise (MOGE), which is now under direct military control.

Pyidaungsu Hluttaw is Myanmar’s bicameral parliament comprising the [lower] House of Representatives (Pyithu Hluttaw) and the [upper] House of Nationalities (Amyotha Hluttaw) that was established by the 2008 National Constitution.

CRPH on Tuesday published online letters to oil and gas operators including Total, Posco International, Petronas and PTTEP.

“The coup has left international oil companies with operations in Myanmar with no option other than to suspend their relationships with the military junta,” CRPH said in a letter addressed to Total and posted on its official Facebook page.

Yadana field operator Total on Monday said it is concerned about the situation in Myanmar, where some 200 people have been killed and thousands more detained as apparently peaceful pro-democracy demonstrators are attacked by the security forces.

“Total condemns violations of fundamental rights wherever they take place and will be aligned with any decisions on sanctions,” Total said.

“[However], as a reminder, Yadana supplies half of the electricity in Yangon,” the company added.

Total’s statement sparked a response from lobby group Justice for Myanmar, which said the energy company “should match words with action by suspending all payments to the illegal junta”.

Other social media users also responded, including some from within Myanmar who said they would prefer to have their electricity to be cut off, reported Reuters.

Meanwhile, independent bilingual news agency Myanmar Now said on Tuesday that some 60 local technicians working offshore on Posco’s Shwe project had stopped work the previous day to take part in the Civil Disobedience Movement.

Oilfield workers in Myanmar earlier shared pictures with Upstream showing employees of Total and MOGE showing their support for the pro-democracy movement.

The past week has seen violence escalate in many cities and towns across the nation, with fatal shootings of protesters a daily occurrence.

The junta declared martial law in four areas of Myanmar’s commercial capital Yangon after targeted attacks on Chinese-owned enterprises in the city.

Read more: Myanmar’s Chinese-operated pipelines threatened amid fresh coup protests

Coup leaders imposed the measure after Chinese government officials asked Myanmar authorities to protect Chinese-owned businesses and to guarantee the safety of its investments and citizens.

Several Chinese-owned factories in Yangon were razed to the ground during bloody clashes last weekend.

Troubling signs

Some Western nations have already imposed sanctions against key members of the Myanmar military and their families but not surprisingly it is the wider population that will likely suffer more.

The United Nations this week warned that food and fuel prices in Myanmar are steadily increasing due to the political unrest triggered by the military coup.

“These initial signs are troubling, especially for the most vulnerable people who were already living meal-to-meal,” said UN World Food Program (WFP) Myanmar country director Stephen Anderson.

“Coming on top of the Covid-19 pandemic, if these price trends continue, they will severely undermine the ability of the poorest and most vulnerable to put enough food on the family table.”

WFP noted a 15% increase in the cost of fuel nationwide since 1 February, raising concerns about further food price hikes. In northern Rakhine state, the price of petrol has increased by 33% and diesel by 29% following the coup.(Copyright)

 

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