After EDF, French renewable energy developer Voltalia pulls out of Myanmar market

French energy giant Total

Following the mobilization of major NGOs such as Reporters Without Borders, Justice for Burma and France’s Sherpa, French renewable energy developer Voltalia announced on Wednesday that it will withdraw from the Burmese market.

The Voltalia group finally announced its withdrawal from the market on Wednesday, after the NGOs warned that the French energy company’s power partnership in Burma was indirectly serving the Burmese army, and that the Burmese telecoms operator had recently been added to the UN list of companies suspected of war crimes and crimes against humanity for aiding the army’s crackdown. NGOs such as Reporters Without Borders, while expressing their gratitude and regret that the company did not take early action, reiterated their call for French energy giant Total, which has so far refused to do anything, to stop being complicit in the Burmese army’s brutal crackdown on the country’s population.

The French newspaper Echo said that the French national power group EDF has decided to abandon a hydroelectric project in Burma, but the Total group of companies, which has been rooted in Burma for more than 30 years, is still in the same position, developing natural gas off the coast of Burma to provide energy for the country and its neighbor Thailand. More than half of the natural gas consumed in Angkor, Myanmar, is supplied by the Total group, and although, Total’s turnover in Myanmar is insignificant for the group, it is a major source of finance for the Myanmar government, which paid more than $230 million in taxes to the Myanmar government as well as to the Myanmar National Oil Group in 2019.

Days after the coup by the Burmese army, TOTAL, together with several French companies such as L’Oréal, issued a statement expressing concern about the situation in Myanmar, declaring its support for democracy and free human rights. Today, however, TOTAL still has no intention of leaving Burma, the group says it must respect the contracts signed with local companies, while a growing number of international NGOs and French political figures are calling on TOTAL to immediately stop its cooperation with the Burmese military.

Sophie Brondel, coordinator of the Burma Express, says that Total is probably one of the most important sources of funding for the Burmese army, and the Business & Human Rights Resource Centre, another NGO, says it understands that Total may have difficulty leaving a market where it has been operating for three decades, but that it could follow the example of Some Japanese and South Korean companies have taken action by temporarily freezing money transfers, for example.