Australian energy giant Woodside announces withdrawal from Myanmar

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The Vantage Tower (centre), which houses the main office of Australian energy company Woodside, is seen in Yangon on January 27, 2022, after the company announced its withdrawal from Myanmar. /AFP

Through AFP January 27, 2022

Australian energy company Woodside on Thursday announced its withdrawal from junta-ruled Myanmar, the latest company to head out after a military coup last year.

“Woodside has decided to withdraw from its interests in Myanmar,” the company said in a statement to shareholders after nine years of doing business in the country.

The Perth-based oil giant cited “the deteriorating human rights situation” as one of the reasons for the move, which will cost the company at least $200 million.

The exit, which comes amid growing international pressure on the junta, follows last week’s announcements by energy majors TotalEnergies and Chevron of their departures.

Woodside operates several exploration and drilling sites in Myanmar, where a military junta toppled the government of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi last February, throwing the Southeast Asian country into turmoil.

Opponents of the junta, including Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy allies, went into hiding and the People’s Defense Forces sprung up across the country to confront the army.

More than 1,500 people died in the ensuing military crackdown and 11,000 were arrested, according to a local monitoring group.

“Given the current situation in Myanmar, we can no longer consider Woodside’s involvement in the development of the A-6 gas resources, or any other future activities in the country,” said Managing Director Meg O’Neill.

A-6 is a deepwater gas project off the west coast of Myanmar in partnership with Total.

The US government this week warned companies around the world that doing business with Myanmar runs “the risk of engaging in conduct that could expose them to significant reputational, financial and legal risk.”

Investors and traders were specifically warned to avoid public companies, the gems and precious metals sector, real estate and construction projects, and the arms trade.

Myanmar’s gas industry is estimated at around $1 billion a year.

The departure of Western companies will at least temporarily deprive the junta of hundreds of millions of dollars a year in foreign revenue at a time when the economy is under severe pressure.

Elaine Pearson, director of Human Rights Watch in Australia, said Woodside’s departure “underscores the urgent need for coordinated and targeted sanctions” aimed at the regime’s natural gas revenues.

Thailand’s state-owned PTT and South Korea’s POSCO are among the companies maintaining operations in the country.


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