Dirty Secrets #4: Myanmar junta energy minister’s family profiting from fossil fuel companies

May 22, 2023

Dr Ohnmar May Tin Hlaing, wife of illegal junta energy minister Myo Myint Oo, is profiting from fossil fuel and mining companies that operate in Myanmar through her environmental consultancy firm in a clear conflict of interest.

Dr Ohnmar May Tin Hlaing’s business, Environmental Quality Management Company Limited (EQM), was registered in 2012, during the military’s proxy Union Solidarity and Development Party government. She owns the business with her father, Tin Hlaing, who was a high-ranking civil servant.

In 2014, the military’s proxy government promoted her husband, Myo Myint Oo, to Managing Director of Myanma Oil and Gas Enterprise (MOGE).

MOGE is the state agency that regulates the sector and acts as both a state revenue collector and commercial partner in oil and gas projects, and is illegally controlled by the junta through its energy ministry.

Myo Myint Oo was in charge of MOGE for eight years until the illegal junta appointed him minister of energy in August 2022. In response to his pivotal role in supporting the military junta, Myo Myint Oo has been sanctioned by the USA, EU and Canada. However, he has not been sanctioned by Australia. Dr Ohnmar May Tin Hlaing has not been sanctioned anywhere.

In sanctioning Myo Myint Oo, the EU stated that he "is in charge of enabling the investment and cooperation with foreign partners in the oil and gas sectors, which creates revenue for the [State Administration Council] SAC, thereby contributing to securing the financial needs of the military regime and to importing aviation fuel for the military which enables the military airstrikes against civilians."

Yet, the role of Dr Ohnmar May Tin Hlaing and EQM in profiting from the oil and gas sector, both before and after the coup attempt, has not been exposed.

Dr Ohnmar May Tin Hlaing’s EQM website lists 87 projects, many for oil and gas companies that were mostly completed before the military’s coup attempt. Clients include TotalEnergies, ONGC Videsh, ENI, POSCO International, PTTEP, Petronas, Shell and Petroleum Brunei.

EQM has also served military conglomerates, including:

  • Air and noise monitoring for a polluting cement factory in Karen State controlled by military conglomerate Myanmar Economic Corporation in 2018;
  • An initial environmental examination and management plan for Bo Aung Kyaw Port controlled by Myanma Economic Holdings Limited in 2016; and
  •  Air monitoring for the Letpadaung copper mine in 2012.

Myo Myint Oo’s positions as Managing Director of MOGE and junta energy minister, and his wife’s business in oil and gas sector, which could benefit from his position, is a clear conflict of interest, raising serious corruption concerns that remain unaddressed.  

Of EQM’s clients, ONGC Videsh, POSCO International and PTTEP remain in Myanmar, investing in projects that are bankrolling the military’s campaign of terror. Chevron, while still in Myanmar for now, has announced its divestment, selling its interest to the secretive Canadian company, MTI.

The dealings of TotalEnergies with Myo Myint Oo’s family members are particularly problematic.

Following the military’s coup attempt, EQM provided ambient air quality monitoring services to TotalEnergies, which it lists as having completed in 2022, shortly before the company exited from Myanmar.

In September 2017, TotalEnergies provided a five-month internship to Myo Myint Oo’s daughter, Lin Hay Thi Oo, in the company’s Health, Safety and Environment department, according to her Linkedin profile.

Myo Myint Oo’s daughter is currently studying in Australia, and may be financially benefiting from her father’s position and her parent’s business interests, which should be investigated by Australian authorities.

Justice For Myanmar calls for Australia, Canada, the EU, UK and US to coordinate to ensure Myo Myint Oo, Dr Ohnmar May Tin Hlaing, EQM, MOGE and Myanma Petrochemical Enterprise (MPE) are sanctioned in each jurisdiction. Without comprehensive and overlapping sanctions, particularly in a sector so profitable for the junta, existing sanctions are far easier to evade.

Oil and gas companies that have been clients of EQM should disclose all payments made to the company. TotalEnergies should disclose the terms of the internship given to Lin Hay Thi Oo, including how it was awarded and if there was any renumeration.

TotalEnergies and PETRONAS did not reply to questions from Justice For Myanmar regarding their links to Myo Myint Oo’s family.

POSCO International denied being a “contractual counterparty” of EQM and did not respond to further questions.