September 11, 2009 / 8:55 AM / 10 years ago

Total says won't quit Myanmar after NGO accusation

PARIS, Sept 11 (Reuters) - French energy major Total (TOTF.PA) will not leave Myanmar, its head told a French daily, after a U.S. environmental group accused it of supporting the country’s military junta with revenue from its gas operations.

The report by Earth Rights International (ERI) said the Yadana gas project, which also involves Chevron Corp (CVX.N) of the U.S. and Thailand’s PTTEP PTTE.BK, had generated $4.83 billion for the regime since 2000, nearly all of which was siphoned off from the national budget and into offshore bank accounts in Singapore. [ID:nN10405709]

“The mission of Total is not to restore democracy in the world,” Total Chief Executive Christophe de Margerie told Le Parisien in an interview published on Friday.

“I repeat, leaving will not make human rights more respected ... If this gas was not produced by Total, it would be by others, and it would change nothing to the revenues of the junta.”

Margerie also said Myanmar opposition leader and Peace Nobel prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi, who has spent most of the past 20 years in detention by the junta, had not asked Total to go.

“She never asked me to leave Myanmar. Never!” he said.

Despite a broad range of sanctions placed on Myanmar by the U.S. and European Union because of political repression, its vast reserves of natural gas have been a financial lifeline for the regime.

In November 2005 Total agreed to pay compensation to eight Myanmar citizens who accused the group of forced labour.

Contacted by Reuters on Friday, a Total spokesman did not wish to comment further on the interview. (Reporting by Astrid Wendlandt, editing by Will Waterman)

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