Norwegian fund dumps PTT over rights concerns

Norwegian fund dumps PTT over rights concerns

World's largest sovereign wealth fund says Thai energy group's activities in Myanmar create risk

(Bangkok Post File Photo)
(Bangkok Post File Photo)

Norway’s sovereign wealth fund has dropped the Thai energy conglomerate PTT Plc from its portfolio because of concerns that its activities in Myanmar could fund human-rights abuses.

The executive board of the $1.3-trillion fund, the world’s largest, is also axeing PTT Oil and Retail Business Plc (OR), as well as Israel-based Cognyte Software Ltd because of an “unacceptable risk” of human rights violations.

The fund’s ethics council said the Thai firms’ partnerships with Myanmar state- and military-owned companies and its activities there provide the armed forces “with substantial revenue streams that can finance military operations and abuses”.

The fund cited an “unacceptable risk that the companies contribute to serious violations of individuals’ rights in situations of war or conflict”.

Myanmar has been in turmoil since the army overthrew an elected government in February 2021 and used lethal force to suppress protests against its rule.

PTT and OR, which operates several service stations in Myanmar, did not respond to requests for comment. A spokesman for Myanmar’s military government did not answer calls seeking comment.

Another PTT unit, PTT Exploration and Production (PTTEP), said in March that it would take over the operations of the Yadana gas field in Myanmar after TotalEnergies of France exited the country. At the same time, PTTEP is pulling out of the offshore Yetagun field, where gas production has been declining.

PTTEP said at the time that it “recognises that equitable access to energy is a fundamental human right that all people are entitled to”.

On Cognyte, the Norwegian fund’s ethics council said several states that are said to be customers of its surveillance products and services “have been accused of extremely serious human rights violations”. The statement did not name any state.

Cognyte did not respond to a request for comment.

The fund said the decisions were based on ethics council recommendations from May and June. It did not mention the fund’s stake in the companies and did not respond to a request for further comment on the suspensions.

It said it would remove Italy’s Leonardo SpA from “observation”, as the reason it was placed under that criteria was “no longer grounds for observation”.

Leonardo did not respond to a request for comment.

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