Anti-junta activists celebrate major win as Chevron and Total announce plans to exit Myanmar 

The US’s Chevron and France’s Total, two of the world’s largest oil producers, announced they would cease operations in Myanmar on Friday following almost a year of intense campaigning to shame the companies into ending their financial support for the junta. 

Natural gas revenues from the Yadana offshore gas field, part-owned by both companies, are a major source of foreign funding for Myanmar’s coup regime, giving it a lifeline at a time when tax revenues are falling and military business interests are being hit with boycotts.  

Campaigners at Justice For Myanmar welcomed Total’s departure, which was announced shortly before Chevron revealed it would leave, calling it “a major step in cutting off funds to the illegal military junta.” 

“TotalEnergies has finally taken heed of the calls of Myanmar people, local and international civil society to stop the flow of funds to the terrorist junta,” spokesperson Yadanar Maung said. 

“It is now essential that governments move ahead with targeted sanctions on oil and gas to deny the junta funds from the remaining oil and gas projects.”

She called on other companies in the sector making payments to the junta, including POSCO International, PTTEP, Petronas, ONGC, GAIL, KOGAS, ENEOS and Mitsubishi, to follow suit. 

A Chevron spokesperson said: “In light of circumstances in Myanmar, we have reviewed our interest in the Yadana natural gas project to enable a planned and orderly transition that will lead to an exit from the country.” 

In April last year Reuters reported that Chevron was lobbying the US government to protect its energy interests in Myanmar.

Total’s statement said the company “has not been able to meet the expectations of many stakeholders… who are calling to stop the revenues going to the Burmese state” and that it “has decided to initiate the contractual process of withdrawing.” 

The withdrawal will take effect within the next six months, the statement added. 

“While our Company considers that its presence in a country allows it to promote its values, including outside its direct sphere of operations, the situation… no longer allows TotalEnergies to make a sufficiently positive contribution in the country,” the statement added. 

Mark Farmaner, Director of the Burma Campaign UK pressure group, described Total’s exit as “very significant.” 

“TotalEnergies went into Burma during military dictatorship, ignoring human rights concerns and helping to arm the Burmese military thanks to an influx of new revenue, so it is very significant that even they are pulling out of Burma today,” he said.

“The European Union should have sanctioned gas revenue immediately after the coup, but French President Emmanuel Macron blocked EU action,” he added. 

In May, Total’s own workers in Myanmar urged the company to prevent its revenues from reaching the junta. 

The same month, both Total and Chevron announced they would suspend dividend payments to the owners of the Yadanar project, one of which is the junta-controlled Myanma Oil and Gas Enterprise. 

But the payments amounted to only around $40m, a fraction of the hundreds of millions the junta was expected to receive annually from the project, experts said.   

Myanmar was forecast to earn some $1.4bn from oil and gas revenues in the year ending March 2022, according to government figures drawn up before the coup. That amounts to roughly 10% of total government revenues. 


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