Leaked documents show Min Aung Hlaing personally concerned over oil and gas payments

December 16, 2021

Recently leaked documents provide conclusive evidence that Senior General Min Aung Hlaing is personally concerned that Myanmar’s oil and gas revenues keep flowing to the junta.

The documents, received by Justice For Myanmar, and shared with the Wall Street Journal, relate to projected revenues from the resumption of production in the Yetagun offshore gas project, which has reportedly been shut for most of this year because of technical problems and the effects of Covid-19.

Yetagun is one of four gas projects in Myanmar which provide the junta with its single biggest source of foreign currency. The project is located in the Tanintharyi region, which has come under severe and sustained violent attacks from the military junta in response to widespread defiance against the illegal coup attempt.

The fact that the head of the junta is personally checking on Yetagun underlines how vital these revenues are to the military at a time when it is intensifying its attacks across the country, committing war crimes and crimes against humanity with total impunity.

Explore the evidence

Note: Documents are only being made public in translated form.

SAC letter to MOEE (28 October): Download PDF (83 kb)

MOGE report on estimated Yetagun revenue (2 November): Download PDF (80 kb)

MOEE letter to MOGE on resumption of gas production & export (5 November): Download PDF (83 kb)

MOGE report on gas production & transportation (10 November): Download PDF (80 kb)

In October, Min Aung Hlaing gave the junta’s peak body, the State Administrative Council (SAC), “instructions” about the Yetagun project, asking about the resumption of exports, payments and what will be done if payments are not received.

SAC’s Economic Department then ordered the Ministry of Electricity and Energy (MOEE) to report on expected natural gas income from the Yetagun project. The order was copied to Min Aung Hlaing’s office and the office of SAC’s Secretary, Lt Gen Aung Lin Dwe.

Myanma Oil and Gas Enterprise (MOGE), which is under MOEE, reported back to SAC, estimating revenue of US$22.37 million over six months from the resumption of export on 21 October 2021 until March 2022.

Yetagun is operated by a consortium led by Malaysian state-owned oil company Petronas Carigali, Thailand’s PTTEP, Japan’s JX Nippon Oil & Gas Exploration (a subsidiary of Eneos Holdings), the Government of Japan and Mitsubishi Corporation, with the junta-controlled MOGE.

In August, Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry stated in response to a question from a parliamentarian that Nippon Oil & Gas Exploration “is not aware of any funds related to the Yetagun project going to the Myanmar military regime, and that it is extremely difficult to ascertain whether the funds are going to the Myanmar military.”

The trade ministry is also under pressure from Japanese civil society over the Yetagun project.

The new evidence compels the Japanese government, and all other investors in the oil and gas sector, to take immediate action in accordance with their human rights responsibilities.

Investors are complicit in the crimes of the Myanmar military through continued payments to the murderous military junta.

Malaysian bank CIMB transactions for the junta risk violating US sanctions

The leaked files also show that state revenue for the Yetagun field is paid into an account at a Singapore branch of the Malaysian bank, CIMB. The account belongs to the state-owned Myanma Foreign Trade Bank, which is now under junta control.

Significantly, the funds are paid in US dollars. As Min Aung Hlaing as a person and SAC as an entity are sanctioned in the US, Petronas, their partners and CIMB could be violating sanctions through continued US dollar payments.

Justice For Myanmar urges US Treasury to investigate Yetagun and other oil and gas projects for potential sanctions violations.  

CIMB’s single biggest shareholder is Khazanah Nasional, Malaysia’s sovereign wealth fund, which deepens the Malaysian government’s links to the Myanmar military’s atrocities.

Oil and gas bankroll the junta

The most recent figures show that in the year ending March 2018, Petronas, as operator of the Yetagun project, paid the equivalent of US$208 million to the Myanmar state.

The 2021-2022 six-month figure in the leaked files shows a significant decline as the field nears the end of its life.

In comparison, TotalEnergies, which operates the Yadana gas project with Chevron and PTTEP, paid roughly US$254 million to Myanmar in the year ending March 2018.

The state receives additional revenue from transportation fees, which are now flowing to the illegal junta.

The Yetagun field transports gas to Thailand via a pipeline, operated by Tanintharyi Pipeline Company. Myanmar Now and Finance Uncovered have reported that the Myanmar state earned US$63 million in pipeline dividends between 2017 and 2019.

While the leaked documents relate to the Yetagun project, they implicate all oil and gas companies that continue to operate in Myanmar and pay the illegal junta, notably TotalEnergies, Chevron, CNPC, POSCO International, ONGC and GAIL.

Justice For Myanmar calls on all oil and gas companies in Myanmar to suspend payments to the military junta and hold funds in a protected account.

Since February 1, the junta has murdered over 1300 people, including children, and arrested over 10,000, according to figures from the Myanmar human rights organisation, Assistance Association for Political Prisoners.

Some of the junta’s recent crimes include the murder in custody of photojournalist Koe Soe Naing, the intentional ramming of peaceful protesters with a car that killed five, and the rape of two Chin women, one of whom was pregnant.

Gas payments sustain these growing military attacks against civilians across Myanmar, financing the weapons needed for the junta’s indiscriminate shelling and airstrikes.

Justice For Myanmar reiterates the call for immediate sanctions on MOGE, to cut the flow of funds that enable the junta’s international crimes.