Chaos in Burma: French Companies Leaving……

Since the coup, EDF has decided to suspend its hydroelectric dam project in the country. Accor and Total are maintaining their positions.

Gone are the days when French companies saw Burma as a new El Dorado. The coup d’état of the Burmese army on February 1 and the bloody repression which has already caused the death of 520 people has prompted a handful of French firms to review their investments there. For others, pressure from human rights organizations is intensifying. Overview of the situation.

EDF was one of the first to draw, on March 21. The French group announced that it had suspended a hydroelectric dam project in Burma. The project called Shweli-3, representing an investment estimated at 1.51 billion dollars, was carried by a consortium which includes EDF as well as the Japanese Marubeni and the Burmese Ayeyar Hinthar. With a capacity of 671 MW, it was located in Shan State (east).

“EDF confirms that respect for fundamental human rights is a prerequisite for each project in which the company takes part,” explains the company in a letter addressed to the NGO Justice for Myanmar.

Departure from Voltalia, present since 2018
In a press release published on Wednesday, Voltalia, specialized in renewable energies, announced its imminent departure from the country after only three years of presence. The group held by the Mulliez (Auchan) family is leaving Myanmar “due to the political and humanitarian crisis”. Voltalia is hiring 43 people locally, including 39 Burmese. The group “in electricity 156 telecom towers (less than 1% of the company’s production), generally isolated and therefore not connected to the electricity network, thus promoting the opening up of rural populations located in the regions of Bago and Irrawaddy “, he notes again in his press release.

Total chooses to stay
The timing could not be more complicated for Total, which has been present in Burma since 1992. “Total will probably be the main source of income for the military regime”, writes the NGO Justice For Myanmar, given the activity of the French giant on the spot which contributes via its gas to the electricity supply of half of the capital Rangoon. “As Burmese generals seek income to support their new dictatorship after the February 1 coup, there is one source of money they can rely on: natural gas projects backed by foreign investors, including Total in France and Chevron in the United States, Posco in South Korea and Petronas in Malaysia, “continues the association, which estimates the amount of taxes paid to the State in 2019 at nearly $ 230 million.

“We are concerned about the current situation,” Total had already reacted in a statement in response to the Business and Human Rights Resource Center in mid-February. The group said it hoped for “a peaceful resolution through dialogue.” “We will continue to work with our partners and stakeholders – including business leaders, states and NGOs – to foster a business environment that respects human rights.”.

What are foreign companies doing?
Like French companies, certain foreign positions are weakened by the current situation in Burma. Two Japanese companies, Kirin, a beer giant, and manufacturer Suzuki, have closed their operations in Myanmar. The beer producer had a turnover of 250 million euros in the country.

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