By Ross Kerber and Jennifer Hiller
BOSTON/HOUSTON (Reuters) - Chevron Corp will put a focus on human rights in Myanmar under an agreement with an investor group that had urged it to pay more attention to violence in the Asian nation where the U.S. oil company has operations.
Chevron will undertake steps including social investment reviews in Myanmar's Rakhine State, donate to humanitarian organizations for Rohingya refugees, and help develop practices for companies operating amid risks of crimes against humanity, according to a letter signed by a company executive.
Azzad Asset Management, an activist investor that submitted a shareholder resolution calling on Chevron to report on its business with governments complicit in genocide or crimes against humanity, agreed to withdraw the proposal, according to a copy of the agreement viewed by Reuters.
"Chevron appreciates Azzad's constructive engagement and commends them for recognizing our actions related to human rights," Mary Francis, Chevron's governance officer who signed the letter, said in an emailed statement. Francis declined to be interviewed.
A similar resolution was opposed by the company at previous shareholder meetings and last year won support from just 7% of votes cast according to a securities filing.
Joshua Brockwell, investment communications director at Virginia-based Azzad, which describes itself as "a faith-based socially responsible investment firm offering halal investment portfolios," said the agreement "demonstrates positive steps forward after years of dialogue."
Rakhine State came to global attention in 2017 when the Myanmar army drove about 730,000 ethnic Rohingya Muslims across the border and into neighboring Bangladesh, following attacks by Rohingya insurgents on police posts. U.S. and United Nations officials have decried the crackdown as a form of genocide.
More recently, the military has been battling another armed rebel group, the Arakan Army, which draws recruits mostly from the ethnic Rakhine population, who are mainly Buddhists, and is fighting for greater autonomy for the western state.
Reuters journalists Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo have spent more than 15 months in detention since they were arrested in December 2017 while investigating a massacre of Rohingya Muslim civilians involving Myanmar soldiers.
Chevron, the second-largest U.S.-based oil producer, does business in Myanmar through a subsidiary, Unocal Myanmar Offshore Co, according to Chevron's website. Its projects there include a minority interest in natural gas production and in a pipeline company.
(Reporting by Ross Kerber in Boston and Jennifer Hiller in Houston; Editing by Leslie Adler)