Extractive industries aggravating local conflicts, ethnic researchers warn

By HEIN KO SOE | FRONTIER

YANGON – Ethnic minority researchers have called on the government to halt and review planned natural resource extraction projects in minority areas to avoid further conflicts with communities.

The Burma Environmental Working Group released its research on the decentralisation process between Union and sub-national governments yesterday. The group spent two years examining conflict over land, forest, water, coal, jade, and oil and gas resources across Kayin, Kachin, Shan and Rakhine states.

Khun Oo, general secretary of Pa-O Youth Organization, which is a member of BEWG, said poor management of natural resources was fuelling conflict.

“For example, oil and gas is being produced in Rakhine State but the electricity is going to the big cities,” he said.

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“The government has also planned many projects on the map and granted permits to companies but [government officials] don’t know how the situation on the ground, that there is conflict between the company, government and ordinary people,” he said.

Tsi Ji, joint director of the Kachin Development Networking Group, cited the example of Yuzana Company, which he alleged had deforested nearly 100,000 acres of land in the Hukawng Valley Tiger Reserve.

He said that one solution to resource conflict was a “federal democratic constitution” that granted greater authority to regional governments, while also ensuring accountability.

Researchers also said that the government was planning 50 large hydropower dams that will flood farmland and displace communities in ethnic minority states but largely export electricity abroad.

They have sent an open letter to State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi urging her to abolish the projects as they deny ethnic minorities the right to “self-determination of our natural resources”.

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