Total suspends gas-linked cash payments to Myanmar army

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Total suspended cash payments linked to gas pipeline partly owned by the Myanmar military due to "the unstable context" in the country.

French energy giant Total said Wednesday that Myanmar's army would no longer receive cash payments linked to a pipeline it operates through a joint venture with the military, following February's military coup.

Total said in a statement the decision was made at a May 12 meeting of shareholders of Moattama Gas Transportation Company Limited (MGTC), a unit that includes the French firm, Chevron, and a military-controlled energy company.

"In light of the unstable context in Myanmar... cash distributions to the shareholders of the company have been suspended" effective from April 1, the company said.

It added that it "condemns the violence and human rights abuses occurring in Myanmar" and would comply with any potential sanctions against the junta from the EU or US.

Total has come under pressure from pro-democracy activists to "stop financing the junta" since a military coup in February which has been followed by a brutal crackdown on dissent.

The MGTC pipeline -- 15-percent owned by the military-controlled Myanmar Oil and Gas Enterprise (MOGE) -- brings gas from the offshore Yadana field operated by Total to Myanmar's border with Thailand.

Total said it would continue to produce gas so as not to disrupt electricity supply in either country.

French newspaper Le Monde revealed Total's involvement in MGTC in early May, also reporting that the company was based in tax haven Bermuda.

"The colossal profits of the gas operations do not pass through the coffers of the Myanmar state, but are massively recuperated by a company totally controlled by the military," Le Monde found.

Days after publishing the story, Le Monde said Total pulled several adverts it had planned to run in its pages in the following weeks.