myanmar news report Statement

Open letter to U.S. Ambassador to Thailand for Imposing Sanctions on MOGE

Open letter to U.S. Ambassador to Thailand for Imposing Sanctions on MOGE under control of Myanmar Military Dictatorship

March 23, 2023

Hon. Robert F. Godec

United States Ambassador to Thailand

Bangkok, Thailand

Dear Ambassador Robert F. Godec

For over two years, the United States government has watched as the American company Chevron and the Thai company PTT Group provide the Myanmar military with its largest source of revenue. These revenues are funding the junta’s war on the Myanmar people. Since the coup began, the junta has committed widespread atrocities, murdering over 3,100 people and arbitrarily detaining over 20,000. It has displaced at least 1.1 million people from their homes, burning villages and raining airstrikes on civilians. As a result, an estimated 17.6 million people are in need of humanitarian aid as the country descends into an economic abyss.

PTT Groups’ majority shareholder is the Thai Ministry of Finance and it is widely known that U.S. policy towards Thailand is the key roadblock to sanctions against MOGE. This has allowed a slush fund of perhaps 3 billion dollars to reach the junta, funding atrocities, extending the war in Myanmar, forcing refugees into Thailand and destabilising ASEAN. We therefore write in support of Myanmar civil society groups calling on Counsellor Chollet to ensure that the U.S. government imposes sanctions that divert gas revenues.

Civil society has repeatedly demonstrated that multinational gas companies can divert gas revenues without stopping gas production in Myanmar. PTT’s contracts are with the Government of Myanmar (represented by MOGE, itself a government agency), not with the unrecognised junta. As soon as PTT acknowledges that the junta is not a recognised government, it can, under its contracts, transfer funds into escrow accounts with or without sanctions in place. U.S. sanctions could push PTT to do what it could and should have done two years ago – divert revenues belonging to the Government of Myanmar before they are seized by the illegal junta. By allowing these payments to continue, the U.S. is enabling Thailand’s funding of the junta, undermining ASEAN.

Contrary to what you might have been told, Thailand is not reliant on Myanmar gas. The Thai government has long planned for the decline of Myanmar gas. This was the case in 2021, even more so after the Nong Fab LNG import facility came online in June 2022.

MOGE sanctions are, in any case, unlikely to have an adverse impact on Thailand. The junta is unlikely to retaliate against sanctions by shutting off gas. The junta needs to maintain domestic gas supplies – if it turns off exports, it would have to stop domestic gas production, close down factories, stifle its war machine and sabotage crony businesses – and it cannot afford to do this. Nor can it afford to damage its relationship with Thailand at a moment when it desperately seeks international legitimacy. If the junta did turn the gas off in response to MOGE sanctions, it would lose its biggest source of revenue which can only serve to bring a conflict on our border to an end sooner.

In the unlikely event that gas exports are stopped, the only impact on Thailand would be an increase in energy prices. An increase that is shrinking as LNG prices fall far below the high of 2022. In any case, energy prices have long been inflated in Thailand. The Thai energy sector has a vast generation over-capacity problem, with a reserve of 50% against a target of 15%. Corrupt practices have seen power plants constructed only to remain idle as “availability payments” are added to bills. Even now, the Thai government appears to be allowing this to worsen, as corporations seek to add surplus capacity that locks us into a future of LNG dependency. If the Thai government is concerned about electricity prices, it should address our problems with over capacity.

Meanwhile, PTT is effectively working with the Myanmar junta to maximise exports and gas revenues. PTT may have told you what they told their investors – that they have no way to stop revenues. Yet PTT could continue to import gas while PTTEP orders revenues owed to the Government of Myanmar into an escrow account. PTT could have sought to reduce the amount of gas it imports from Myanmar down to the contractual minimum or even below (as its contracts appear to allow it to do if it has purchased more than the minimum over the last 5 years). Instead, in 2022, it kept imports at high levels.

Demand from PTT is even starving Myanmar’s population of energy to protect its profits which in turn funds the junta. Output from Myanmar’s Yadana field began declining early in 2022, so to maintain exports to Thailand and fund its war machine, the junta must have reduced domestic supply. As the junta cuts power to residential areas across the country, it presumably ensures electricity and gas reach the factories that equip its war machine and enrich its crony allies. Meanwhile, as PTT rips the last of the gas from Yadana, PTTEP is suspending projects designed to ensure Myanmar’s future energy security.

Over two years ago, when the Myanmar junta began its coup, perhaps the Thai government expected the junta to consolidate power quickly. This has not happened. The junta has only limited control over limited parts of the country. As the U.N. Special Rapporteur for Myanmar has ​​reported, the junta has no claim to legitimacy and no effective control. The Myanmar people will not allow this to change. The longer the United States hesitates to sanction MOGE and suggests that doing business with a genocidal junta will be tolerated, the longer this conflict will persist.

Thank you for your attention to this urgent matter. We would be pleased to share more information with you. Please contact us at etoswatch@gmail.com 

Respectfully,

Thai civil society organisations 

List of organizations certifying this letter

  1. Asia Democracy Network
  2. Burma Concern
  3. Community Resources Center: CRC
  4. Democracy Restoration Group: DRG
  5. Environmental Politics
  6. Extra – Territorial Obligation: ETOs Watch Coalition
  7. Friends Against Dictatorship: FAD
  8. Spirit in Education Movement – Myanmar (SEM – Myanmar)
  9. Thai Action Committee for Democracy in Burma: TACDB
  10. The Coalition for the Rights of Refugee and Stateless: CRSP
  11. The Mekong Butterfly

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