- Does forced labor still exist in Myanmar. If so, does Total E&P Myanmar use it?
- Did the Army commit human rights violations when ensuring the security of the construction project and the facilities?
- Does Total's presence in the country support an unacceptable regime?
- Have legal proceedings been instituted against Total? What was the outcome?
- Why has Total stayed in Myanmar while many other Western companies have left?
- Is the Socio-Economic Program scaled to meet Myanmar's problems?
- Have any third parties objectively and independently tested the quantitative claims of success made by your company with respect to the socio-economic program?
- Is there any way to monitor how the revenues generated by the Yadana project are used by the Myanmar government?
Question 2. Does forced labor still exist in Myanmar. If so, does Total E&P Myanmar use it?
Conscription of local villagers by the government and the Army to work without pay to build public infrastructure or to perform other tasks is a long-established practice in Myanmar, as is also the case in other developing countries that lack an established tax base. Although this practice dates back to British colonial times and was codified in the Town Act of 1907 and the Village Act of 1908, it has been censured in recent years by the International Labour Organization (ILO).
Under Article 26 of its Constitution, the ILO created a Commission of Inquiry to examine Myanmar's observance of the Forced Labor Convention, 1930. In 1998, the Commission published a very detailed report based on interviews with a large number of Myanmar nationals and witnesses from non-governmental organizations. In particular, the report criticized the conditions under which the Army recruited villagers as porters or for other tasks such as military camp work, growing food for soldiers and performing road maintenance, and the abuses that sometimes accompanied them, such as extortion of money and ill treatment.
The report served as a foundation for critical dialogue between the ILO and the Myanmar government. One positive outcome was the repeal in 1999 of the Village Act and the Town Act, thereby making forced labor illegal in Myanmar. Another was the appointment of an ILO representative to Yangon to liaise with the government, observe the situation and implement aid programs to progress change.
Although national legislation has recently been brought into line with ILO principles, forced labor still exists in Myanmar. Eradicating this deeply rooted historic practice would demand a sustained commitment on the part of the government. In response to persistent recourse to forced labor, the ILO has threatened to institute proceedings against Myanmar in the International Criminal Court. The government of Myanmar unconvincingly refutes the allegations.
Long before the government’s dialogue with the ILO started, Total E&P Myanmar clearly and repeatedly demonstrated its opposition to forced labor in response to allegations regarding local incidents that came to Total’s attention.
There is obviously no forced labor related to Yadana activities. All TEPM activities are conducted in compliance with TEPM’s Ethics Charter, which is distributed and well known by our employees, contractors and partners and which clearly states that: "Total E&P Myanmar ensures that its personnel policies and operational practices prohibit and prevent forced or compulsory labor, discrimination and child labor and more generally respect internationally recognized labor standards. Total E&P Myanmar provides workers with fair remuneration and equitable treatment in accordance with the relevant labor market.”
Outside the scope of Yadana operations, TEPM has established a procedure ensuring a formal and systematic follow-up of any potential issue arising in the pipeline area. If TEPM teams receive any information about a potential issue, TEPM will investigate and verify the information. If the allegations are substantiated and prove not to be in line with our Code of Conduct, TEPM can bring the case to MOGE and/or the Ministry of Energy, which will take the necessary action, such as compensation and remedial measures. All actions are reviewed at least weekly until the matter is settled.
Although the affiliate did not begin fieldwork until 1994, the earliest allegations of forced labor were leveled in October 1992. Reports published in 1998 by the International Labour Organization and the U.S. Department of Labor also mention these allegations, while recognizing that the authors were unable to verify them since local officials regrettably refused to grant them the necessary authorization for field visits. Total E&P Myanmar has made it clear that everyone employed by it and its subcontractors to build and operate the pipeline was a paid, voluntary adult with a written contract, and underwent a physical examination prior to hiring and received safety training. In addition, local subcontractor compliance with TEPM’s Code of Conduct was monitored closely and regularly. Nonetheless, a number of articles in the media continue to talk about the "pipeline forced laborers," an allegation that is both an insult to the affiliate’s teams and technically absurd.