BANGKOK—More than 160 groups and academics in Burma and overseas have called on three energy giants who exploit the country’s natural gas fields to make public the details of their payments to the country’s highly secretive military regime.
“We the undersigned ... urge Total, Chevron, and PTTEP to commit to practice full revenue transparency in Burma in the future, and to publish all payments made to the Burmese authorities since 1992,” the group said in a statement Tuesday.
Signed by dozens of nongovernment groups from all ethnic regions of Burma, by prominent overseas rights organizations, and by former heads of state, the statement welcomed a partial disclosure of revenue by Total last October.
“Total disclosed that its portion of the Yadana natural gas project in Burma generated U.S. $254 million for the Burmese authorities in 2008,” the statement said.
The Yadana natural gas project, which includes gas fields and a pipeline, is run by a consortium comprising Total, Chevron, and Thailand’s PTTEP, alongside the military regime’s Myanmar Oil and Gas Enterprise (MOGE).
The junta now in power in Burma calls the country Myanmar.
“We also encourage Total to disclose ... information about the flow and amount of payments, and the origins of the revenue financing the socio-economic projects,” said the statement, which included among the signatories former Irish president Mary Robinson and former Norwegian prime minister Kjell Magne Bondevik.
If Total, Chevron, and PTTEP publish comprehensive data and information about their payments to the Burmese authorities since 1992, the companies would send a positive message to the people of Burma and make their presence in the country more constructive, the statement said.
Trade unions representing 24 million workers worldwide also endorsed the statement.
Other signatories include the international pressure group EarthRights International, investment firms managing a cumulative U.S. $15 billion dollars of capital, and Kerry Kennedy, founder of the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights.
The Burmese regime has received multi-billion dollar profits from export gas sales and payments from Total, Chevron, and PTTEP, buttressing the regime from democratic pressures, according to EarthRights International.
“With the highest poverty rates and lowest social spending in Southeast Asia, shining a light on this revenue is critical for Burma’s future development, and for the responsible management of the country’s vast resource wealth,” the group said in a statement.
“The people of Burma have a right to know the financial details surrounding the country’s natural resources, including payments made by foreign oil companies,” spokesperson Naing Htoo said.
Total signed a production-sharing contract with MOGE in 1992 to explore, develop, and market natural gas deposits in Burma’s Andaman Sea.
The company is now the principal stakeholder in the consortium operating the Yadana gas pipeline that transports natural gas from Burma to neighboring Thailand.
Preparations for the Yadana pipeline began in the early 1990s. It was constructed in Burma from 1996-99; gas sales to the Petroleum Authority of Thailand (PTT) began in 2000 and continue to date.
The pipeline feeds into two power plants in Thailand, which provide electricity to the Bangkok metropolitan area.
The statement comes as U.S. lawmakers debate legislation that would require all oil, gas, and mining companies registered with the Securities & Exchange Commission to disclose information about payments to host governments around the world, including to the Burmese regime.
It also comes ahead of a vote by Chevron’s shareholders next month on a proposal that would require the company to disclose payments to foreign governments, including the Burmese military government.
Original reporting by Khin Khin Ei for RFA’s Burmese service. Director: Nyein Shwe. Executive producer: Susan Lavery. Written for the Web in English by Luisetta Mudie. Edited by Sarah Jackson-Han.