Japanese NGOs urge METI to prevent Yetagun gas field project from funding Myanmar military
"【要請書】（経済産業大臣宛）イェタグン・ガス田開発プロジェクトからミャンマー国軍に資金が流れないよう早急な措置を求めます" 15 September 2021
[Japanese-to-English translation: Business & Human Rights Resource Centre]
The shareholders of the Yetagun gas field are Malaysia’s state-owned Petronas Carigali, the operator (40.9%); Myanmar Oil Gas Enterprise (MOGE) (20.5%); Thai government-owned PTT Exploration and Production (PTTEP) (19.3%); and Nippon Oil Exploration (Myanmar) (19.3%). Nippon Oil Exploration (Myanmar) is jointly held by the Japanese government (Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI), 50%), JX Nippon Oil & Gas Exploration Corporation (40%)[...], and Mitsubishi Corporation (participating since 2013, 10%).
The Yetagun field, which began production in 2000, was, like other gas fields, an important income source for the Myanmar military regime at the time. This revenue is also believed to have increased the budget of the Myanmar military. [...]
We understand that the production at gas fields in Myanmar entails payment obligation [...] to the Myanmar government [...]. Under the current situation, we are strongly concerned that if such payments related to the gas business are made, it will lead to the acquisition of foreign currency by the political system of the Myanmar military, which has seized substantial power by force and is not recognized by the international community, including the Japanese government. In addition, [...]. We cannot deny the possibility that payments related to this gas project will flow to the ongoing oppression of citizens by the military, and we, as taxpayers in Japan including Myanmar people living in Japan, will be indirectly contributing to the oppression by the military. This is not acceptable.
In the beginning of April 2021, Petronas Carigali, the operator of the gas production at Yetagun, issued a "declaration of force majeure" due to technical problems, and production was halted. However, in a response statement [...] by your Ministry (Agency for Natural Resources and Energy) dated 31 August 2021, it revealed that "the gas production facilities were subsequently repaired and production was resumed on 21 July, 2021," but that “after production resumed, several workers were found to have contracted the new coronavirus, and production was suspended again on August 17,” and further that it was “unclear exactly when production will resume.” However, because basically “there is a duty to continue supplying gas under the contract with the purchaser of gas” as your Ministry states, we assume that production will resume when the problems are solved.
In addition, in the same statement, your Ministry refused to disclose any information, stating that it "refrains from answering the question because it falls under the confidentiality clause in the contracts between Nippon Oil Exploration (Myanmar) and MOGE."
Furthermore, [...] your Ministry responded that "according to Nippon Oil Exploration (Myanmar), a part of the oil and gas sales is Myanmar's state revenue according to the laws of Myanmar and the contractual provisions with Petronas Carigali, PTTEP International and MOGE. However, we are not aware of any fact that the funds related to the field have been transferred to the Myanmar military junta, and it is extremely difficult to confirm whether the funds have been transferred to the Myanmar military."
While claiming that it has been exchanging opinions with Nippon Oil Exploration (Myanmar) and it plans to reach out to project partners through this company, your Ministry stated that "it is extremely difficult to confirm whether the funds are being transferred to the military," which means that your Ministry had already approved the resumption of production without providing any concrete measures to stop the flow of funds. This is equivalent to stating that Japan will continue to make payments to "Myanmar" without paying any attention to the current humanitarian crisis in Myanmar, which is unacceptable as Japanese citizens. There is also a strong concern that the Japanese government will be considered by the citizens of Myanmar and the international community as being complicit in the human rights abuses committed by the military.
Based on these strong concerns, we request the following to METI.
- Before the resumption of gas production, take appropriate measures to ensure that the payments associated with the production of the Yetagun gas field do not directly or indirectly benefit the Myanmar military. This includes keeping the payments in a foreign account to which the Myanmar military does not have access until democratization is achieved. If it is impossible to take measures to prevent the funds from being transferred to the military, production should not be resumed.
- The terms and conditions of payment to the Myanmar government for the Yetagun gas field should be disclosed to all Japanese taxpayers, as this information is not considered essential to ensure the competitiveness of the private sector.