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TotalEnergies tells rights group it backs sanctions on payments to Myanmar junta

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Fuel price signs are seen at a TotalEnergie petrol station in Nice
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(Reuters) - TotalEnergies has told a rights group that it backs the imposition of sanctions on its payments to Myanmar's junta from gas operations in the country and that it has asked the French government to put in place a legal framework for sanctions.

The French energy giant's gas venture is one of the top sources of income for the junta and, along with other global companies, it has faced pressure from rights groups and a shadow civilian government to curb payments since the army seized power.

In the transcript of the letter to Human Rights Watch dated Jan. 18, TotalEnergies Chief Executive Patrick Pouyanne said talks had taken place with French and U.S. authorities about targeted sanctions.

"TotalEnergies will not only comply with any sanction decision from the European or American authorities but also supports the implementation of such targeted sanctions," read the letter published by the rights group.

The company had formally requested that France set up sanctions by putting in place a legal framework after calls to stop financial flows from output of the Yadana field to state energy firm MOGE (Myanma Oil and Gas Enterprise), the letter said.

TotalEnergies did not immediately respond to an emailed request for comment, while a MOGE official declined to comment and a junta spokesman could not be reached for comment.

Last year, TotalEnergies and U.S. energy company Chevron suspended some payments from their gas joint venture that would have reached Myanmar's junta.

But the French company later said it had gone as far as it could to limit revenues going to the junta while staying within a legal framework and assuring power supplies.

The French company is the biggest shareholder in the joint venture with 31.24%, while Chevron holds 28.26%. Thailand's PTTEP and MOGE hold the remainder.

Myanmar has been in turmoil since the army overthrew the elected government and detained its leader Aung San Suu Kyi, and the junta has used brutal force to put down protests and armed resistance in support of the ousted civilian administration.

In his letter, Pouyanne said TotalEnergies had "repeatedly, publicly and very firmly condemned both the violence and the human rights abuses committed in Myanmar."

He said the company's share of production from Yadana represented less than 1% of its total production.

"The fact that both TotalEnergies and human rights groups now support sanctions on Myanmar’s gas revenues leaves the U.S. and European Union without any excuses to delay action," said John Sifton, Asia advocacy director at Human Rights Watch.

The European Union said last month it was ready to impose further sanctions on Myanmar, while the United States has said it was looking at what additional steps to take against the junta.

(Reporting by Reuters Staff; Writing by Ed Davies; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)

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