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‘Total will remain in Burma’: Chief

New Delhi (Mizzima) - Chief of French oil giant Total, Christophe de Margerie, on Friday made it absolutely clear that the company does not have any political agenda and that it would not move out of Burma, because of accusations leveled by NGOs that it was supporting the ruling generals.

Margerie, in an interview to the French newspaper Le Parisien, published on Friday, said Total will not move out of Burma as a portion of the country’s population is benefiting from its presence and they would be merely replaced by other companies, which will not alter the income of the military junta.

On Thursday EarthRights International, a US-based NGO, in a report said the revenue from Total and the Yadana gas project in Southern Burma, which also involves US Oil Company Chevron and Thailand's PTTEP, had generated $4.83 billion for the regime since 2000, nearly all of which was siphoned off from the national revenue and into offshore bank accounts in Singapore.

ERI and other NGOs have urged Total and other companies to pull out of Burma as their business involvement in the country continues to benefit the ruling regime, which carries on violating the rights of its own citizens in the name of development projects such as natural gas exploration.

But Total’s chief De Margerie said, “The mission of Total is not to restore democracy in the world. This is not our business. We are not a political tool or an NGO.”

“I think instead what we do is positive for a portion of the population. The fatal argument is that the gas money benefits the junta. But if this gas was not produced by Total, it would be produced by others, and this would not alter the income of the junta,” De Margarie said.

Besides, the Total chief also said, the detained Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi during his meeting had not asked Total to move out of Burma.

“I know what the lady [Aung San Suu Kyi] told me. I promised not to reveal our interviews. However, I can tell you this: she never asked to leave Burma. Ever! That to me is important,” De Margerie said.

“I can assure you that she prefers to work with us than others,” he added.

Total and Chevron are two of a number of western companies still operating in Burma, despite stringent US and European Union sanctions on the country for the regime’s appalling human rights abuses.

Along with them, several Asian companies including South Korea’s Daewoo International, Korean Gas, and Indian companies Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC) and Gas Authority of India Limited (GAIL), are involved in gas exploration in Burma.

Campaigners along with Burmese pro-democracy activists have long urged these companies to move out of the country saying their involvement continues to provide financial lifeline to the regime.

Last Updated ( Friday, 11 September 2009 23:47 )  

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