Oil companies continue operating in Myanmar despite human rights abuses and sanctions News
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Oil companies continue operating in Myanmar despite human rights abuses and sanctions

A human rights agency reported Wednesday that some of the world’s largest energy providers continue operating in Myanmar after the military’s attempted coup.

The Myanmar military junta staged a coup in February 2021, and has killed thousands of citizens since taking power. The oil and gas industry is the junta’s largest source of foreign currency. In Myanmar, oil and gas is regulated by the Myanma Oil and Gas Enterprise (MOGE) which the junta controls. The report claims that the junta’s hold on the agency allows the military group to collect “lucrative tax and royalty payments, as well as a vast share of profits.”

The report notes that the US has been inconsistent in its treatment of the Junta, with a July 2022 US Department of Commerce Country Commercial Guide for Myanmar describing the oil and gas industry as having “significant opportunities for US investors in the Burmese energy market.” This statement contradicted a January 2022 US Department of State’s business advisory stating that “no business enterprise. . .should enter into any economic or financial relationship with the security forces of Myanmar, or any enterprise owned or controlled by them.”

Congress also explicitly authorized sanctions on MOGE with the National Defense Authorization Act of 2023 which was signed into law in December 2022. This legislation advises the president to impose sanctions on the Junta and those who support it within 180 days of the law’s passage. On January 31, the State Department announced additional sanctions on MOGE, Myanmar’s Ministry of Energy, the Union Electoral Commission and their Air Force, citing the junta’s “scorched-earth campaign [that] continues to inflict harm and claim the lives of innocent people, fueling a worsening armed conflict within Burma and insecurity beyond its borders.”

The report identified several US companies that have continued to work with Myanmar’s oil and gas industry since the coup in February 2021, including Baker Hughes, Schlumberger, and Halliburton.