The Yadana gas field is an offshore gas field in the Andaman Sea. It is located about 60 kilometres (37 mi) offshore to the nearest landfall in Myanmar. The project has been developed in partnership with local communities and western oil companies with the objective of involving local communities and protecting the environment. The Yadana gas field and pipelines are operated by Total S.A., with Chevron Corporation as its junior partner along with PTT, a Thai state-owned oil and gas company, and Myanma Oil and Gas Enterprise (MOGE), a state-owned enterprise of Myanmar. The operator of the gas field is Total. Since the project’s beginnings in the early 1990s, it has been marred by serious and widespread human rights abuses committed by pipeline security forces on behalf of the companies, including forced labor, land confiscation, forced relocation, rape, torture, murder. Many of these abuses continue today.
From the beginning, the project started with mounting controversies. The project consortium asked the government to provide security for the project site, while a dozen of local villages were relocated along the corridor of pipeline area. With the presence of more government troops in the areas, the local population was also forced to work as porters for the army. Villagers are also forced to construct local roads in some parts of the pipeline corridor without compensation. The complete militarization in the project area resulted in abuses such as extra-judicial killings, torture, rape and extortion by the army units have dramatically increased as project progressed. Many villagers fled to Thailand and took refuge in camps along the border, whereas many more were internally displaced within Burma. By 1994, major international human rights and environmental groups have started to investigate the abuses and damages caused by the project.
This report documents Chevron’s ongoing role in financing the military regime in Burma (Myanmar) and profiting from human rights abuses on the Yadana natural gas development project. It is based in part on over 70 formal interviews over the past five years, documenting conditions in the region of Burma affected by the Yadana gas pipeline, and corroborating information from ERI’s network of contacts, as well as ERI’s prior experience in documenting abuses on the Yadana Project dating back to 1994, and on documents that have become public through the groundbreaking human rights lawsuit Doe v. Unocal In October 1996, 15 members of the Karen minority Burmese group, who alleged that they or their family members had been subjected to relocation, forced labor, torture, murder, and rape on the Yadana pipeline project filed a class action suit against Unocal in a U. S. federal court (Doe v. Unocal). The suit argued that Unocal should be held responsible for the injuries inflicted on hundreds of Karen by the Burmese military because the activities of the military were conducted on behalf of the pipeline project in which Unocal held a major stake and from which Unocal benefited. The suit in Federal court was based on the Federal 1789 Alien Tort Statute which has been interpreted to authorize civil suits in U.S. courts for violations of internationally recognized human rights.
In 1996, two lawsuits were filed at the US federal court against UNOCAL for its role in human rights abuses: Doe v. Unocal case. The trial in state court began in late 2003 and the judge Chaney set a trial date for June of 2005 for a jury trial on the plaintiffs' claims of murder, rape, and forced labor. So in March 2005, Unocal agreed to compensate the plaintiffs in a historic settlement that ended the lawsuit. But even though the conflict was settled, yet the respondents are dissatisfied with the project and most of the affected people don’t understand, and lacked knowledge about the hearing, primarily concerned about their compensations. However, the opponents, Affected People and NGOs stopped demonstrations because they had promised the government to do so before the hearing. And at the same time, a study showed that only the Project Sponsors are completely satisfied with all hearing factors. Even though this hearing could not improve people’s perception of environmental soundness of the project, it has stimulated the public in using their rights to protect their benefits.
On August 10, 2005, Unocal merged its entire upstream petroleum business with Chevron Corporation and became a wholly owned subsidiary.
In April 2002, four Myanmar refugees filed a lawsuit against TotalFinaElf (now Total), Thierry Desmarest (chairman of Total) and Hervé Madeo (the former director of Total’s Myanmar operations) in Brussels Magistrates’ Tribunal. The Myanmar refugees brought the lawsuit pursuant to a 1993 Belgian law of universal jurisdiction. The plaintiffs allege that Total and its managers have been complicit in crimes against humanity, such as torture and forced labour, committed by the Myanmar military junta in the course of the construction and operation of the Yadana Gas Pipeline in Myanmar. The plaintiffs allege that Total provided moral and financial support to the Myanmar military government with full knowledge that its support resulted in human rights abuses by the military. Environmental activists were also concerned with the potential impact of the pipeline construction in Taninserim region, which has the largest block of intact rainforests in Southeast Asia. According to the World Wildlife Fund, the region is listed as one of Conservation Internationals twenty-four hotspots of global biodiversity, notable for endangering tremendous biological diversity. On the other hand, the offshore portion of the pipeline in the Andaman Sea also puts the environment at risk. Gas exploration and production produces large quantities of toxic wastes and atmospheric emissions. No independent Environmental Impact Assessments of the project was conducted or subjected to public scrutiny. In 2010 EarthRights International released an "explosive new report Energy Insecurity: How Total, Chevron, and PTTEP Contribute to Human Rights Violations, Financial Secrecy, and Nuclear Proliferation in Burma (Myanmar) on July 5, 2010 in Paris. The report describes how the oil companies Total (France), Chevron (US), and PTTEP (Thailand) have generated over US $9 billion dollars in military-ruled Burma (Myanmar) since 1998, making their Yadana Natural Gas Project the single largest source of revenue for the country’s notoriously repressive dictatorship."