May 11, 2013

Myanmar needs conscious energy investments

U.S. energy companies examining the potential to work in Myanmar need to do so in an environmental and socially responsible way, an official said from Houston.

U.S. President Barack Obama signed an executive order last year authorizing U.S. investments in Myanmar in light of political reforms. Limitations were made, however, for the country's Defense Ministry and for sanctioned entities and individuals.

U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary for Energy and Business Affairs Robert Cekuta told an offshore energy conference in Houston that U.S. companies looking at Myanmar need to invest wisely.

"We have paired our actions to ease sanctions with putting in place reporting requirements for U.S. companies that encourage responsible investing, including with regard to promoting transparency and respect for human and labor rights, as well as supporting sound environmental practices, and land use," he said.

He said there's a potential for "massive" revenue generated from offshore Myanmar, but economic issues need to be tied to human rights issues associated with the extractive industries.

Human Rights Watch last year called on the U.S. government to link rights issues to oil and natural gas investments. The group said it appears the government "caved to industry pressure" by its decision to allow deals with the state-owned oil Myanmar Oil and Gas Enterprise.