Biden Should Cut Off the Gas Revenues That Fund Myanmar’s Junta

The Biden administration froze $1 billion in Myanmar government funds and imposed sanctions on many of Myanmar’s generals and on gemstone, timber and pearl enterprises that also fill their bank accounts. But amid lobbying by Chevron, which is involved in a joint venture with MOGE, President Biden refrained from targeting gas revenues.

Doing so would be a heavy blow to junta finances. MOGE’s operations are the single largest source of revenue for the state. Much of that comes from the major gas field that Chevron and France’s TotalEnergies operate along with MOGE and a Thai energy company. Both Chevron and TotalEnergies have argued that sanctions would saddle Myanmar citizens with escalating power cuts because natural gas is responsible for generating a portion of Myanmar’s electricity. But sanctions need not turn the gas off, and we are offended by the suggestion that we trade our freedom and safety for a few hours of electricity. The calls for sanctions on MOGE are being spearheaded not from abroad but from within Myanmar by hundreds of civil society organizations, activist groups and unions that have taken part in peaceful resistance to the military.

This year, TotalEnergies and Chevron announced plans to withdraw from Myanmar, but the junta would still be able to seize gas revenues through MOGE.

The European Union imposed some sanctions on MOGE, but they contain holes that can be exploited. We need U.S.-led sanctions with real bite, like those employed to limit Russia’s ability to make war on Ukraine.

This won’t solve all of the problems that have built up in Myanmar through decades of military domination and misrule. But we must start with cutting off the Tatmadaw’s access to planes, bombs, bullets, jet fuel, surveillance equipment and other imported tools of repression. We want peace, prosperity and a truly democratic future for all of Myanmar’s people, no matter their ethnicity, free of military domination once and for all.

But as long as the gas revenue flows, so will the blood of Myanmar’s people.

Thinzar Shunlei Yi (@thinzashunleiyi) is a Myanmar pro-democracy activist with the civil society coalition Action Committee for Democracy Development and the founder of the Sisters2Sisters campaign promoting solidarity among Myanmar women, and works with People’s Goal, an organization that encourages Myanmar soldiers to defect from the military junta.

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