Business as usual on natural resources: ethnic groups

YANGON — Ethnic leaders say there has been “no progress” in the equitable management of natural resources under the National League for Democracy government.

“The new government has to start working in a new way,” said Sai Nyunt Lwin, the secretary of Shan Nationalities League for Democracy. “All we can do is urge and advise them to do this, we can’t do it for them. The government will decide but so far we have all seen that there is no progress.”

He added that the 2008 constitution was a major barrier towards equitable sharing of natural resources.

Sai Nyunt Lwin was speaking at the launch on Thursday of Myanmar National Resources, a report on natural resource extraction, including jade, ruby and gas production, in ethnic minority areas.

The report was compiled over six months by the Ethnic Nationalities Affairs Center, of which Sai Nyunt Lwin is a director.

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The report suggests that states and regions, rather than the Union government, should have ownership and control over their own natural resources

States and regions should receive 70 percent of income from their natural resources, with the remaining 30 percent going to the Union government. Natural resource extraction projects should also require the consent of nearby communities, it said.

U Zon Thon Hmone, another ENAC director, said the research included site visits and discussions with political parties, civil society groups and government officials.

“We’re focusing on who should own natural resources, who should manage them, how to allocate [revenues from them] and what the implications will be,” he said.

ENAC representatives said they hoped that natural resources would be addressed at the next 21st Century Panglong Union Peace Conference, which is expected to begin in late March. 

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