Woodside continuing to monitor "evolving situation" in Myanmar

WOODSIDE Petroleum CEO Peter Coleman’s comments to Energy News on the Myanmar coup caused some consternation among readers who wondered if he was almost sympathetic to the military takeover of early February.  
Woodside continuing to monitor "evolving situation" in Myanmar Woodside continuing to monitor "evolving situation" in Myanmar Woodside continuing to monitor "evolving situation" in Myanmar Woodside continuing to monitor "evolving situation" in Myanmar Woodside continuing to monitor "evolving situation" in Myanmar

Protests in Myanmar

Helen Clark

Editor

One suggested it was "not very politically correct". 
 
"It's very early days in the coup, the military has committed to free and fair elections in 12 months," Coleman said yesterday. 
 
"It's not up to us to judge the veracity of grievances they have around the previous election process."
 
The company has shares in nine offshore blocks and is in the middle of a drill campaign. 
 
After declaring a 12-month state of emergency at the beginning of the month the military, known as Tatmadaw, suggested new elections but has not given a firm date. 
 
"I understand they've put together quite an extensive folder of grievances around the election that they wanted to be heard and they weren't being heard," Coleman said. 
 
Grievances revovle around some irregularities they claim in the November election. 
 
"They were pushed up against a difficult decision point, the day of the coup was the day the new parliament was due to proceed." 
 
"Difficult decision point" was an unusual turn of phrase for sending in the troops to detain democratically elected leaders, including Aung San Syu Kyi, in purpose built capital Naypyidaw, and curtailing internet service. 
 
A Woodside spokesperson contacted today by Energy News did not provide background or clarification on what Coleman meant by ‘difficult decisions' but said the company, which has 100 staff in-country "continues to monitor the evolving situation regarding the Myanmar government, including any guidance from the United Nations and the Australian government on economic engagement in Myanmar". 
 
There have been widespread protests in cities and townships across the nation, from Burmese punks to offshore oil workers and the UN is warning of further crackdowns on protests by the military. 
 
Some in Myanmar fear this could be a repeat of the bloody times in 1988, when the military cracked down on a civilian uprising. 
 
"The Australian government remains a long-standing supporter of Myanmar and its democratic transition. The Australian government has requested the military to respect the rule of law and to resolve disputes through lawful mechanisms," the spokesperson said. 
 
"Australia is a long-standing supporter of Myanmar and its democratic transition," Australia's  foreign minister Marise Payne said the same day the coup occurred. 
 
"We call on the military to respect the rule of law to resolve disputes through lawful mechanisms and to release immediately all civilian leaders and others who have been detained unlawfully." 
 
Prime Minister Scott Morrison called the events "disturbing" and said "we all hope for Myanmar, we all hope for what I know the Myanmar people want to achieve." 
 
The United Kingdom has just now imposed sanctions on three generals. 
 
"We, alongside our international allies, will hold the Myanmar military to account for their violations of human rights and pursue justice for the Myanmar people," foreign minister Dominic Raab said.
 
Its Human Rights Policy, reviewed last December, states Woodside's business conduct "is informed by the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, which defines the accountabilities of governments in protecting human rights, and of business in respecting human rights."
 
At a post-annual general meeting press conference in 2018 Woodside's outgoing chairman Michael Chaney said his company had it on best advice from the Australian government that engagement was a better policy than walking away in terms of helping the then-nascent democracy develop its economy. 
 
At the 2019 AGM CEO Peter Coleman was asked multiple questions about the company's involvement in Myanmar by activist investors, but he said Woodside remained committed to the nation. 
 
Both have stressed energy development is critical for the nation, and said engagement would drive democracy. Coleman yesterday said isolating the nation could pave the way for China to move in further.   China's CNPC is partner in two of the three wells it is drilling offshore in the nation at the moment. 
 
"In the ongoing development of Myanmar, economic stability and energy supply can play an important role.  We have mitigation plans if tensions escalate," the spokesperson said.