French energy giant Total say that they will not cease production and will continue to operate in coup-struck Myanmar despite rising violence by the state against unarmed civilian demonstrators, French local news reported Sunday.
Speaking to the French weekly newspaper Le Journal du Dimanche, Chief Executive Officer Patrick Pouyanne defended the company’s decision to stay in the country despite being “outraged” by the atrocities going on in Myanmar.
“Respect for human rights is at the heart of our code of conduct and our values: respect for others is deeply rooted in Total’s DNA,” Pouyanne said in the interview with LJD.
However, according Pouyanne, the company’s operations there supplies electricity to hospitals in Myanmar and to parts of neighboring Thailand. The company therefore had an obligation to both its local staff and on humanitarian grounds to keep going.
Pouyanne said that the company would not pay taxes it owes to the government but would instead donate that money to humanitarian organizations in Myanmar.
Rights groups have questioned the decision by Total to continue operating inside the country at a time when foreign businesses have done its utmost to sever ties with the junta.
No one is asking Total to cut gas production in #Myanmar. The demand has been to stop payments from reaching the junta. Hundreds of Myanmar CSOs called for this. Total’s offer to instead donate to rights orgs in Myanmar is hollow— no one wants your money. https://t.co/yRnVzNmi1C— Matthew Smith (@matthewfsmith) April 4, 2021
While taxes would not be paid to the junta, operating costs and revenue are still shared with state-owned enterprises within the country and they are all now run by Myanmar’s military government.
Since taking power in a military coup on February 1, Myanmar’s military government has killed over 500 people in their attempt to keep power. Hundreds more have been disappeared or arrested by the junta’s security forces with those arrested facing possible execution or torture.
Both the United Nation and countries across the world have openly expressed their opposition to the violence and the military seizure of power.