Total rules out exit from Myanmar

17th May 2005, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, May 17 (AFP) - Total, the French oil giant long criticized by human rights organizations for its presence in Myanmar, has no plans to withdraw from the Southeast Asia country, its chief executive said Tuesday.

PARIS, May 17 (AFP) - Total, the French oil giant long criticized by human rights organizations for its presence in Myanmar, has no plans to withdraw from the Southeast Asia country, its chief executive said Tuesday.  

"It is not by leaving this country that democracy will see progress," CEO Thierry Desmarest told the company's annual general meeting in Paris, noting "a close link between economic development and improvement of human rights."  

"If we decided to leave we would be immediately replaced by other companies which might not apply the same criteria as us," he said, in reference to the group's social aid programmes.  

Human rights campaigners have long criticized Total's presence in Myanmar, which they say gives moral and financial support to the country's military dictatorship.  

In the United States, a human rights group fighting for democracy in Myanmar planned protests to coincide with the company's shareholders meeting.  

The US Campaign for Burma (Myanmar) said it would hold demonstrations in front of the French embassy in Washington and consulates in five other US cities to protest against reported French opposition to blanket European Union investment sanctions on the military-ruled Southeast Asia state.  

The EU had imposed investment sanctions against Myanmar in October last year but the oil and gas industry was exempted from the ban following French government pressure, USCB said.  

USCB charged that the French government "went out of the way to entirely omit oil and gas investments" in EU sanctions against Myanmar, allegedly to protect Total.  

"France has repeatedly fought, diluted and otherwise tried in every possible way to undermine support for human rights in Burma solely to protect the interests of Total Oil's operations in the country," said Aung Din, a former political prisoner and USCB co-founder.  

"It is time for France to change its Burma policy, which is nothing short of blood for gas," he said.  

USCB is a member of the newly formed Total Oil coalition, a group of 53 organizations based in 18 countries pressuring the company to cut ties to Myanmar's military junta.  

Total launched in 1992 a project to build and develop a natural gas pipeline from Myanmar's Andaman Sea across the country and into neighbouring Thailand, in partnership with the military junta, which provided security for the pipeline region.  

Total holds a 31.24 percent stake in the Yadana gas field project, whose other stakeholders include US energy giant Unocal (28.26 percent) and Thailand's PTTEP (25.5 percent).  

According to a recent report by the Burma Campaign United Kingdom, USCB's sister group in Britain, the Total project provided as much as 450 million dollars annually to the junta, which has been condemned worldwide for alleged human rights abuses and suppression of democracy.  

"It is clear that the company is one of the regime's main pillars of financial support," the report said.

© AFP

Subject: French News

 

 

 

 

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