Myanmar junta bans privately operated oil wells

Myanmar’s junta has an order shutting down with immediate effect all privately operated oil wells in the central Magway region, a move that reportedly could affect as many as 300,000 workers across the industry.

The decree, which came out of the blue, gave no reason for the closure, leaving the private oil well operators in Magway’s Min Hla and Thayet townships no option other than to stop production and abandon their wells.

Oil well owners and workers told Radio Free Asia the military ordered the closure out of fear that tax revenues from the operations are being used to fund People’s Defence Force paramilitary groups fighting the military, which seized control of the Southeast Asian nation in a February 2021 coup.

Among those impacted by the ban was a businessman who had invested 40 million kyats ($19,000) in three oil assets.

“I have lost a lot at the Da Hat Pin oilfield in Min Hla township, where I am currently based,” said the businessman, who spoke to the RFA Burmese service on condition of anonymity, citing security concerns.

“I didn’t even have any money left for food [after stopping operations] at the Na Lal oilfield.”

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His third well was located on the Tet Ma oilfield in Mandalay’s Nyaung-U township, where officials late last month shut down operations at a day’s notice at the behest of the township’s junta.

The notice reportedly threatened “serious action against anyone who failed to comply with the prohibition”.

Bagan Gyi, a soldier with the anti-junta Nyaung-U People’s Defence Force, told RFA that the closure of the Tet Ma oilfields had crippled the local economy.

“Many surrounding villages rely on the oilfield for their livelihoods,” he said.

“The junta has shut down their economy with this closure… [It’s a] deliberate attempt to make people suffer.”