Senators urge Biden to impose more sanctions on Myanmar junta

Washington, United States | Wed, April 28, 2021

In reaction to the military junta’s coup and brutal crackdown on demonstrators, a bipartisan group of US senators urged the Biden administration to slap further sanctions on Myanmar’s military junta, including choking revenues to a state energy corporation. In a letter to Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, Senators Jeff Merkley, a Democrat, and Marco Rubio, a Republican, and four others urged them to “explore new ways to help the people of Burma in their continuing fight for democracy in the face of escalating crimes against humanity.”

They want the Biden administration to halt royalties flowing to Myanmar Oil and Gas Enterprise, or MOGE, an agency within the Energy Ministry, from companies such as Chevron. MOGE offers financial assistance to military officials, including US-sanctioned General Min Aung Hlaing. Chevron owns a 28.3 percent interest in Yadana, a natural gas field in which MOGE is a partner.

Since the military deposed Aung San Suu Kyi’s constitutionally elected government on Feb. 1, detaining her and cracking down on demonstrators, human rights organizations have urged energy firms such as Chevron and Total to break relations with Myanmar. Since then, over 750 people have been killed. According to the senators, gas sales from joint ventures with companies like Total and Chevron are the most important single source of foreign exchange revenue for Myanmar, producing cash payments of about $1.1 billion annually. They proposed the ventures pay revenue into a trust to be held until Myanmar has a democratically elected government or to be used for humanitarian purposes, according to the letter, a copy of which was seen by Reuters.

Any diversion of MOGE’s sales or taxes into an escrow account, according to a Chevron spokesperson, “may be considered a breach of contract and potentially placed employees of the joint venture partners at unreasonable risk of criminal prosecution.” Total did not respond to a request for comment right away. The Departments of State and Treasury did not answer right away. According to the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, which works to improve transparency in foreign industry, Chevron paid about $50 million to Myanmar between 2014 and 2018.

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