Opinion: State-owned PTT now complicit in human rights abuses in Myanmar

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The latest deal involving PTT Exploration and Production (PTTEP) shows that money can make selfish people turn a blind eye to atrocity.

The Thai oil and gas giant announced this week that they are taking over the operation of the Yadana gas field in Myanmar from July onwards after France’s TotalEnergies exited the country in January due to the rights abuses by the military junta that governs the country.

TotalEnergies said in a statement on January 21 that the company has “firmly condemned on several occasions the abuses and human rights violations taking place” in Myanmar and they have halted all of their ongoing projects in the country since February 2021.

However, they have continued to produce gas from the Yadana field because it is “essential for supplying electricity to the local Burmese and Thai population” and to protect their employees from the risk of “criminal prosecution or forced labour.”

But after a year, they decided to withdraw as the operator of the Yadana field and as a shareholder of Myanmar’s MGTC conglomerate because they were unable to meet the expectations of many of their stakeholders who called on them to stop all revenue streams to the junta.

TotalEnergies has been a partner (31.24 per cent) of MGTC and operator of the Yadana gas field since 1992.

The remaining partners include PTTEP, MOGE and Unocal-Chevron, a subsidiary of US’s Chevron which also announced in January that they are pulling out from Myanmar.

PTTEP said in a statement on Monday that they will take over as operator of the field and hold 37.1 per cent of MGTC from July 20 onwards filing the void of the western companies.

They said that the company “recognises that equitable access to energy is a fundamental human right that all people are entitled to” and they places importance in “preventing disruption to energy demand.”

They said the Yadana field is a “pivotal source of natural gas supply to the livelihood of the people in both Myanmar and Thailand.”

According to TotalEnergies, the Yadana field produces around 6 billion cubic meters of gas per year and about 70 per cent is exported to Thailand through a 400 kilometres pipeline.

They said the gas from the site provide about half of the electricity in Yangoon and it helps supplies the western part of Thailand.

Other human rights was never mentioned in PTT’s statement.

Not only has Thailand’s government cozied up to the Myanmar government, which has killed thousands of its own people in its bid to keep power since a February 2021 coup, now our state-owned enterprises are willingly making money for Myanmar’s generals.

If the government of Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-ocha and PTTEP seriously care about human rights they would have tried to find ways to exit from Yadana and find other ways to compensate for the gas.

Instead, they rush to take over at the first opportunity.

PTTEP can continue to make the excuse all they want and “equitable access to energy is a fundamental human right” may sound good on paper but the bottom line is they are abetting people that have committed crimes against humanity.

It is just disgusting.

Their action reminds me of quotes made by David Crossman, a best-selling author who wrote in his real-time novel, “A Terrible Mercy”, in 2014, “When you turn a blind eye to atrocities, you are complicit in them.”

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