TOTAL Annual General Meeting disrupted by Burma activists

Press release
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Info Birmanie, The Burma Campaign UK, and FIDH today questioned TOTAL’s board of directors over the French company’s moral and financial support to the Burmese regime through its gas projects in the country.

Last October the Chief Executive of TOTAL, Christophe de Margerie, stated that the Yadana gas project, which TOTAL operates, earned the regime 350 million euros in 2006. “350 million euros is a huge amount of money, that’s nearly a million euros a day” commented Frederic Debomy, of Info Birmanie. “Today we asked how much TOTAL’s gas project earns the Burmese Junta, last year they admitted it was 350 million Euros, today they claimed its only 125 million euros. Once again TOTAL is making contradictory statements and trying to downplay their funding of Burma’s brutal regime”, concluded Debomy. Furthermore when the board was asked to clarify their financial support to the junta TOTAL’s chairman Thierry Desmarest stated “I do not see what interest the total amount represents to you”.

The NGOs questioned TOTAL on how it was dealing with the human rights abuses committed by the Burmese army, which the company employs to protect its gas project. According to a report published last month by EarthRights International (ERI), the Burmese Army, continues to commit numerous human rights violations against the region’s populations. In an open letter dated 5 May sent to ERI, TOTAL stated “Unacceptable practices are systematically reported and the perpetrators are prosecuted”. “We asked for more detailed information on the type and number of reported violations and the measures taken to punish those who committed them.” said Isabelle Brachet, Asia Director for FIDH. “We also asked TOTAL if the company is ready to provide the security for the gas pipeline through other means, without resorting to Burmese army” she continued. De Margerie replied “If there are some other (violent acts), we will react, rapes do not occur only in Burma”.

TOTAL were also questioned over the money they paid to a solidarity fund in 2005, under the terms of an amicable settlement putting an end to legal proceedings against the company in France over the use of forced labour on the pipeline project. De Margerie attempted to dodge the question by highlighting TOTAL’s support for Burmese refugee camps in Thailand and stated that there is enough information on the company’s website, “if here are no enough information, tell us, we will provide more” he said.

Faced with criticism of the companies support for Burma’s brutal dictatorship the company’s board replied “(there are people) outside of the country, sat in leather chairs, who wish to see the country collapse, hoping it will bring about a revolution”. “Unfortunately, the country is already on its knees, 90% of the population live with less than one dollar per day”, concluded Johnny Chatterton of the Burma Campaign UK.

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