ERI Releases Report Clarifying French Oil Giant Total’s Impacts in Burma: Company Still Linked to Grave Human Rights Abuses, Corruption in Burma

In Burma, big oil's problems won't disappear. According to Total Impact 2.0: A Response to the French Oil Company Total Regarding Its Yadana Natural Gas Pipeline in Military-Ruled Burma (Myanmar), a new 35-page report released on December 16, 2009 by EarthRights International, the French oil giant Total S.A. (Total), the US-based Chevron, and the Petroleum Authority of Thailand Exploration and Production (PTTEP) continue to be linked to killings, forced labor, and authoritarianism connected to their notorious Yadana natural gas pipeline in the military-ruled country.

Total Impact 2.0Total Impact 2.0, the third publication on the Yadana project this year by ERI finds that Total continues to mislead policymakers, investors, and the general public about its direct and indirect impacts in the Southeast Asian country.

"The Yadana pipeline is one of the Burmese military regime’s largest sources of income and we continue to document its links to serious abuses by the Burma Army against local villagers," said ERI Program Coordinator Naing Htoo. "Meanwhile, Total and its partners would have the world believe they could do no wrong in Burma."

Total is the operator of the 60 kilometer Yadana onshore gas pipeline, which is secured by the Burma Army and passes through a remote ethnic region of the country en route to the Thailand border.

forced labor in the pipeline corridorIn August 2009, Total CEO Christophe de Margerie famously told the readers of Newsweek that critics of his company’s pipeline in Burma can "go to hell." One month later, ERI released nearly 200 pages of original research in two ERI reports on Total's pipeline, to unprecedented worldwide reception. The most recent abuses documented by ERI and committed by the Burma Army providing security for the companies and the pipeline include various forms of forced labor, killings, beatings, and violations of property rights and freedom of movement.

The pipeline has also contributed to authoritarianism in Burma through the massive revenues generated for the ruling junta. ERI has calculated that the pipeline has generated nearly US$7 billion dollars in gas sales since operations began a decade ago, and the Burmese junta takes the majority of the profits, funneling much of this revenue into two offshore banks in Singapore held by Burmese individuals connected to the regime.

At a September press conference in Bangkok, ERI co-authors Matthew Smith and Naing Htoo noted that as long as the military regime has easy access to Yadana and other gas revenues, it would have little incentive to change.

While Chevron and PTTEP have been relatively silent on ERI’s evidence of abuses and corruption, Total recently published a 12-page response to ERI's 106-page report Total Impact: The Human Rights, Environmental, and Financial Impacts of Total and Chevron’s Yadana Gas Project in Military-Ruled Burma (Myanmar) (Sept 2009), in which the company categorically denies ongoing abuses connected to the pipeline.

Today's report, Total Impact 2.0, explains in detail how Total has failed to refute ERI’s research and documentation on the human rights and financial impacts of their project."

ERI now re-issues several concrete recommendations to Total and its partners. At the forefront of these recommendations is that Total and its partners take immediate action to practice full and disaggregated revenue transparency in Burma since the first contract for the project was signed in 1992; that the company accept responsibility for the larger local impacts of its project; and that Total facilitate villagers’ option to file complaints of force labor with the International Labour Organization (ILO).

Burma has been under military rule since 1962. National elections planned for 2010 have already been widely condemned as unfair and un-free.

Total Impact 2.0 Full Report (PDF) | Press Release (PDF)