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Total takes stake in Myanmar offshore zone

PARIS--French oil and gas giant Total said Monday it had taken a 40-percent stake in an exploration field off the coast of Myanmar, its first investment in the country since sanctions were eased.

Total has been in Myanmar since 1992 — before international sanctions against the military junta were ratcheted up — and operates the offshore Yadana gas field that fuels power plants in Thailand.

In its first investment in Myanmar since 1998, it bought for an undisclosed sum a 40-percent stake in Block M-11 in the Martaban basin from Thailand's PTT Exploration and Production, which remains the operator.

“With this acquisition, Total will bring its well recognized deep offshore expertise and its worldwide proven technology to contribute to exploration activities in Myanmar and potentially develop the country's hydrocarbon resources,” the head of Total's upstream activities, Yves-Louis Darricarrere, said in a statement.

“By doing so, Total will continue to support the country's economic opening and growth,” he added.

Myanmar has surprised observers with a series of reforms following the end of nearly half a century of military rule last year, leading Western nations to start rolling back sanctions.

Total's presence in Myanmar has been contested by human rights activists, who accuse it of enriching the junta.

But during a visit to France in June, Myanmar's opposition icon and Nobel Peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi called Total a “responsible investor” and said it had made efforts to provide sufficient compensation to those displaced by the Yadana gas line.

Total is one of the few major Western companies operating in Myanmar and has consistently defended its presence by saying that it contributes to the impoverished southeast Asian nation's development.

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