SEOUL, May 28 (Reuters) - South Korea's Posco International
said on Friday it is reviewing dividend payments on
a gas project in Myanmar, in a move that could further constrain
funding to the military junta, which seized control of the
country in a Feb. 1 coup.
The move follows a decision this week by Total and
Chevron that suspended some payments from a similar gas
joint venture that is also part-owned by the state-owned gas
International firms doing business in the country have come
under pressure from rights groups and Myanmar's deposed civilian
government to review their operations since the coup and an
ensuing bloody crackdown on protests in which hundreds have
died. The oil and gas sector is one of the largest sources of
foreign revenue for the country.
"We are reviewing what has been demanded for us to do from
the international community, and that includes suspending
dividend payout. This internal discussion is taking place from
various angles, and its not an easy one when the contract
involves many," a Posco International spokesman told Reuters by
phone, when asked about its gas venture in Myanmar.
Posco International has a majority stake in Myanmar's Shwe
gas project, which comprises three fields in the Bay of Bengal,
alongside the Myanmar Oil and Gas Enterprise (MOGE), India's Oil
and Natural Gas Corp (ONGC) and GAIL. It
also has a stake in the pipeline that transports the gas to
Posco International had invested about $1.53 billion in the
gas project and about 20% of the gas business is used for local
consumption including electricity production, while the rest
goes to China through pipelines, according to the company.
A spokesman for Myanmar's military government did not answer
phone calls seeking immediate comment.
Kinam Kim, a human rights lawyer at Korean Civil Society in
Support of Democracy in Myanmar, a rights group, said the move
didn't go far enough.
"The military's crimes are bankrolled by oil and gas. Posco
must act now to suspend all payments to the junta," said Kinam
Kim, a human rights lawyer and spokesman for the organization.
(Reporting by Cynthia Kim
Additional reporting by Poppy McPherson
Editing by Frances Kerry and Steve Orlofsky)