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Armed conflict, development and investment

Websites/Multiple Documents

Title: Myanmar’s military: Money and guns
Date of publication: 06 December 2013
Description/subject: "Since the military junta’s announcement in 2010 that they were willing to begin a transition to democracy and implement democratic reforms arms imports from Chinese, Russian and other outside supplies have risen dramatically. Arms imports into the country in 2011 surged to an all time high of nearly $700 million, more than double the highest annual figure since 1989 and remained almost as high in 2012. Fatalities in Burma’s armed conflicts have also risen during these years as a more than decade-long downward trend was reversed following the massive rearming of the military and its subsequent offensives against the Kachin Independence Army, which began in June of 2011..."
Author/creator: Jacob Sommer
Language: English
Source/publisher: "New Mandala"
Format/size: html
Date of entry/update: 14 July 2014


Individual Documents

Title: Natural Resources and Subnational Governments in Myanmar: Key considerations for wealth sharing (English)
Date of publication: 16 June 2014
Description/subject: "...The research presented in this discussion paper by Thet Aung Lynn and Mari Oye provides an overview of the current role of subnational government in natural resource management and revenue collection in Myanmar. Natural resources provide a large share of government revenue, and there is potential for growth in these sectors in coming years. The government under President Thein Sein has made reform of the natural resource management system a priority, and the topic remains the subject of great interest among the wider public and civil society. In addition, natural resource management and revenue collection has long been a contentious issue in the country’s numerous ethnic conflicts and will need to be fully considered in the political dialogue. As discussion of potential future reforms takes place, an overview of the current laws, systems, and practices surrounding these areas is intended to lay the groundwork for future research and inform policy debate..."
Author/creator: Thet Aung Lynn and Mari Oye
Language: English
Source/publisher: Asia Foundation
Format/size: pdf (1.2MB-reduced version; 2.66MB-original)
Alternate URLs: http://asiafoundation.org/resources/pdfs/NaturalResourcesandSubnationalGovernmentsinMyanmar.pdf
Date of entry/update: 03 July 2014


Title: Natural Resources and Subnational Governments in Myanmar: Key considerations for wealth sharing ျမန မာႏ င င ၏ သဘာဝသယ ဇာတအရင းအျမစ မ်ားႏ င ေဒသဆ င ရာအစ းရမ်ား ဥ
Date of publication: 16 June 2014
Description/subject: "The Myanmar Development Resource Institute's Centre for Economic and Social Development (MDRI-CESD) and The Asia Foundation are pleased to present this fourth volume in the Subnational Governance in Myanmar Discussion Paper Series. Myanmar's government has announced a commitment to both greater transparency in natural resource sectors and to further fiscal decentralization. There has also been increasing discussion of sharing natural resource revenues in the contexts of economic restructuring, constitutional reform, and the peace process. However, there is not yet consensus on what is to be shared, between which entities, how, or why. This discussion paper is intended to provide an overview of the current unknown and known elements of the resource governance system in Myanmar in order to inform future analysis of the potential risks and benefits of changes to the role of subnational governments."
Author/creator: Thet Aung Lynn and Mari Oye
Language: Burmese/ ျမန္မာဘာသာ
Source/publisher: Asia Foundation, MDRI-CESD
Format/size: pdf (1.4MB-reduced version; 2.92MB-original)
Alternate URLs: http://www.asiafoundation.org/resources/pdfs/NaturalResouresandSubnationalGovernmentsMyanmarBurmese.pdf
Date of entry/update: 04 July 2014


Title: Myanmar’s arms purchases are a problem
Date of publication: 11 December 2013
Description/subject: "It is very important for Burma watchers to have a clear understanding of the goals and interests of the Myanmar Government. Not having a clear understanding imperils the peace and democratization processes and also threatens to embolden radical elements within the regime. Such miscalculations threaten to facilitate further human rights violations and could easily lead to backsliding toward authoritarianism. With this in mind this short opinion piece argues first, that Burma is not part of the Southeast Asian trend in rearmament designed to balance against Chinese ambitions in the South China Sea, second, that Burma is seriously at risk of failing to democratize in a meaningful way and is seriously at risk of following in the path of a faux democracy like Cambodia and third, that policy goals of the Myanmar Government need to be seen in non-sensationalist terms that address issues of post-transition power and wealth sharing amongst the government and opposition groups..."
Author/creator: Jacob Sommer
Language: English
Source/publisher: "New Mandala"
Format/size: html
Date of entry/update: 14 July 2014


Title: Guns, Briefcases and Inequality: The Neglected War in Kachin State
Date of publication: 21 September 2013
Description/subject: "Burma Partnership is pleased to announce the launch of a new documentary film today to coincide with the International Day of Peace. The film, entitled “Guns, Briefcases and Inequality: The Neglected War in Kachin State,” demonstrates the need for the government of Burma to engage in meaningful political dialogue with all ethnic nationalities on equal terms, including discussing amendments to the 2008 Constitution. These are necessary in order to address the underlying causes of armed conflict: self-determination, the lack of ethnic rights, and inequality, and to move towards lasting peace throughout the country. The short documentary film also highlights how development projects and natural resource management are exacerbating armed conflict and human rights violations in ethnic areas, without adequate means to justice for the people. The film was written and directed by Daniel Quinlan. It features interviews with Kachin internally displaced persons (IDPs), civil society and community-based organizations, leaders of ethnic non-state armed groups and advocates for human rights and democracy in Burma"
Language: English
Source/publisher: Burma Partnership
Format/size: Adobe Flash (15 minutes 29 seconds)
Date of entry/update: 21 September 2013


Title: BUSINESS OPPORTUNITIES AND ARMED ETHNIC GROUPS
Date of publication: September 2013
Description/subject: "Since signing ceasefire and peace agreements with successive Burmese Governments, armed ethnic groups have been able to create a number of business opportunities in the country. As part of the first ceasefire processes that began in the late eighties/early nineties, armed ethnic groups were able to become legally involved in logging, mining, import and export, transportation, and a number of other businesses. Recent ceasefire agreements have also resulted in similar incentives being made and a number of armed ethnic groups have taken the opportunity to create their own companies. Groups hope that if they be come self - sufficient it will remove the burden on the over taxed local population. That said, however, a number of obstacles remain and further support needs to be given in relation to allowing groups the ability to move forward in terms of creating local business opportunities to support their troops and their families..."
Author/creator: Editor: Lian H. Sakhong | Author: Paul Keenan
Language: English
Source/publisher: Burma Centre for Ethnic Studies (Briefing Paper No. 17)
Format/size: pdf (133K-reduced version; 166K-original)
Alternate URLs: http://burmaethnicstudies.net/pdf/BCES-BP-17.pdf
Date of entry/update: 04 October 2013


Title: Rain for Myanmar's peace parade
Date of publication: 25 June 2013
Description/subject: "A grand ceremony is expected to be held next month in the Myanmar capital of Naypyidaw, where a nationwide ceasefire with various ethnic resistance armies will be announced to an audience of United Nations representatives and other foreign dignitaries. Ten of Myanmar's 11 major ethnic rebel groups who have signed individual ceasefire agreements with the government will be highlighted at the high-profile event. The one main rebel outlier, the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), has not yet reached a ceasefire agreement. The most recent round of talks between KIA and government representatives in the Kachin State capital of Myitkyina held between May 28-30 failed to yield the deal government authorities anticipated. The two sides agreed only to a seven-point agreement stating that "the parties undertake efforts to achieve de-escalation and cessation of hostilities" and "to hold a political dialogue" - though no firm commitment was made concerning when such talks would commence..."
Author/creator: Bertil Lintner
Language: English
Source/publisher: "Asia Times Online"
Format/size: html
Date of entry/update: 29 May 2014


Title: Access Denied - Land Rights and Ethnic Conflict in Burma
Date of publication: May 2013
Description/subject: The reform process in Burma/Myanmar by the quasi-civilian government of President Thein Sein has raised hopes that a long overdue solution can be found to more than 60 years of devastating civil war... Burma’s ethnic minority groups have long felt marginalized and discriminated against, resulting in a large number of ethnic armed opposition groups fighting the central government – dominated by the ethnic Burman majority – for ethnic rights and autonomy. The fighting has taken place mostly in Burma’s borderlands, where ethnic minorities are most concentrated. Burma is one of the world’s most ethnically diverse countries. Ethnic minorities make up an estimated 30-40 percent of the total population, and ethnic states occupy some 57 percent of the total land area and are home to poor and often persecuted ethnic minority groups. Most of the people living in these impoverished and war-torn areas are subsistence farmers practicing upland cultivation. Economic grievances have played a central part in fuelling the civil war. While the central government has been systematically exploiting the natural resources of these areas, the money earned has not been (re)invested to benefit the local population... Conclusions and Recommendations: The new land and investment laws benefit large corporate investors and not small- holder farmers, especially in ethnic minority regions, and do not take into account land rights of ethnic communities. The new ceasefires have further facilitated land grabbing in conflict-affected areas where large development projects in resource-rich ethnic regions have already taken place. Many ethnic organisations oppose large-scale economic projects in their territories until inclusive political agreements are reached. Others reject these projects outright. Recognition of existing customary and communal tenure systems in land, water, fisheries and forests is crucial to eradicate poverty and build real peace in ethnic areas; to ensure sustainable livelihoods for marginalized ethnic communities affected by decades of war; and to facilitate the voluntary return of IDPs and refugees. Land grabbing and unsustainable business practices must halt, and decisions on the allocation, use and management of natural resources and regional development must have the participation and consent of local communities. Local communities must be protected by the government against land grabbing. The new land and investment laws should be amended and serve the needs and rights of smallholder farmers, especially in ethnic regions.
Language: English
Source/publisher: Transnational Institute (TNI), Burma Centre Netherlands
Format/size: pdf (161K-OBL version; 3.22MB-original)
Alternate URLs: http://www.tni.org/sites/www.tni.org/files/download/accesdenied-briefing11.pdf
Date of entry/update: 14 May 2013


Title: Developing Disparity - Regional Investment in Burma’s Borderlands
Date of publication: 21 February 2013
Description/subject: "Burma has entered a pivotal stage in its political and economic development. The advent of a new quasi-civilian government has raised the prospect of fundamental reforms. This has sparked great investment interest among governments and the private sector in the region and beyond, to extract the country’s natural-resource wealth, and to develop large-scale infrastructure projects to establish strategic ‘corridors’ to connect Burma to the wider economic region. The country is touted as Asia’s “final frontier” for resources and investment and as Asia’s next “economic tiger”. These large scale investment projects focus on the borderlands, where most of the natural resources in Burma are found. These areas are home to poor and often marginalised ethnic minority groups, and have been at the centre of more than 60 years of civil war in Burma – the longest running in the world. These war-torn borderlands are now in the international spotlight as regions of great potential but continuing poverty and grave humanitarian concern. The report warns that foreign investment in these resource-rich yet conflict-ridden ethnic borderlands is likely to be as important as domestic politics in shaping Burma’s future. Such investment is not conflict-neutral and has in some cases fuelled local grievances and stimulated ethnic conflict. Economic grievances among ethnic groups – often tied to resource extraction from the borderlands to sustain the government and business elites – have played a central part in fuelling the civil war. While regional investment could potentially foster economic growth and improve people’s livelihoods, the country has yet to develop the institutional and governance capacity to manage the expected windfall. Burma is emerging from decades under military rule, and the foreign-funded mega projects have not, to date, benefited local communities. Land-grabbing has increased, and the recent economic laws and new urban wealth have not brought about tangible improvements for the poor. If local communities are to benefit from the reforms, there need to be new types of investment and processes of implementation. The government should direct investment towards people-centred development that benefits household economies. There is a need to resolve conflict through dialogue and reconciliation. These are the hallmarks of a robust and healthy democracy. In their absence, the development of Asia’s final frontier will only deepen disparity between the region’s most neglected peoples and the new military, business and political elites whose wealth is rapidly increasing."
Author/creator: John Buchanan, Tom Kramer and Kevin Woods (Series Editor, Martin Smith)
Language: English
Source/publisher: Transnational Institute (TNI), Burma Centre Netherlands
Format/size: pdf (1.7MB-OBL version; 3.37K-original)
Alternate URLs: http://www.burmalibrary.org/docs14/Burmasborderlands-red.pdf
Date of entry/update: 21 February 2013


Title: Bitter Wounds and Lost Dreams: Human Rights Under Assault in Karen State, Burma
Date of publication: 27 August 2012
Description/subject: Findings: "Out of all 665 households surveyed, 30% reported a human rights violation. Forced labor was the most common human rights violation reported; 25% of households reported experiencing some form of forced labor in the past year, including being porters for the military, growing crops, and sweeping for landmines. Physical attacks were less common; about 1.3% of households reported kidnapping, torture, or sexual assault. Human rights violations were significantly worse in the area surveyed in Tavoy, Tenasserim Division, which is completely controlled by the Burmese government and is also the site of the Dawei port and economic development project. Our research shows that more people who lived in Tavoy experienced human rights violations than people who lived elsewhere in our sampling area. Specifically, the odds of having a family member forced to be a porter were 4.4 times higher than for families living elsewhere. The same odds for having to do other forms of forced labor, including building roads and bridges, were 7.9 times higher; for being blocked from accessing land, 6.2 times higher; and for restricted movement, 7.4 times higher for families in Tavoy than for families living elsewhere. The research indicates a correlation between development projects and human rights violations, especially those relating to land and displacement. PHR’s research indicated that 17.4% of households in Karen State reported moderate or severe household hunger, according to the FANTA-2 Household Hunger Scale, a measure of food insecurity. We found that 3.7% of children under 5 were moderately or severely malnourished, and 9.8% were mildly malnourished, as determined by measurements of middle-upper arm circumference. PHR conducted the survey immediately following the rice harvest in Karen State, and the results may therefore reflect the lowest malnutrition rates of the year.....Conclusion: PHR’s survey of human rights violations and humanitarian indicators in Karen State shows that human rights violations persist in Karen State, despite recent reforms on the part of President Thein Sein. Of particular concern is the prevalence of human rights violations even in areas where there is no active armed conflict, as well as the correlation between economic development projects and human rights violations. Our research found that human rights violations were up to 10 times higher around an economic development project than in other areas surveyed. Systemic reforms that establish accountability for perpetrators of human rights violations, full political participation by Karen people and other ethnic minorities, and access to essential services are necessary to support a successful transition to a fully functioning democracy..."
Author/creator: Bill Davis ,MA, MPH; Andrea Gittleman, JD, PHR; Richard Sollom, MA, MPH, PHR; Adam Richards, MD, MPH; Chris Beyrer, MD, MPH; Forword by Óscar Arias Sánchez
Language: English
Source/publisher: Physicians for Human Rights (PHR)
Format/size: pdf (749K)
Date of entry/update: 28 August 2012


Title: Catalyst for Conflict - Investments cause renewed war, threatening Ta'ang communities in northern Burma
Date of publication: 22 May 2012
Description/subject: "Despite recent ceasefire agreements and talk of reform in Burma, since January 2012 ethnic Ta'ang areas of northern Burma have experienced increasing militarization and conflict. Fierce battles have broken out in areas that have not seen fighting for over 20 years. Soldiers from the Burma Army have moved from their main bases to live in villages and now regularly patrol local areas, increasing abuses against local populations including killings, beatings, forced labor, and extortion. The military expansion is directly linked to securing Chinese mega projects. Pipelines that will take oil and gas from Burma to China are currently being built in Ta'ang areas. China is also building two mega dams on the Shweli, the most important river for the Ta'ang, while loggers are cutting down precious teak forests in Ta'ang areas to export timber to China. Control over natural resources and abuses by the Burma Army are at the heart of local grievances in both Kachin and Shan states where conflict has erupted. in July 2011, a new army, the Ta'ang National Liberation Army (TNLA), was formed under the Palaung state Liberation Front (PSLF) to protect the Ta'ang people. in March this year, pro-government militias in Mantong were given Burma Army weapons to fight the TNLA, using a divide and rule tactic which creates conflict among the Ta'ang people. As fighting and abuses increase, local people are fleeing for their safety. Since December 2011, over 1,000 have become internally displaced, sheltering in Nam Kham and Mantong. Many have also fled to China, particularly young men avoiding forced conscription and portering. This has had devastating impacts on the annual tea harvest, a critical economic activity for the Ta'ang. People in northern Shan State, especially in rural areas, have failed to benefit from the much talked about reform in central Burma. Investments are increasing conflict and abuses while not providing benefit to local people.
Language: English, Burmese
Source/publisher: Ta'ang Students and Youth Organization
Format/size: pdf (English: 1.2MB-OBL version; 1.61MB-original; Burmese: 1.3MB-OBL version; 4.44MB-original)
Alternate URLs: http://www.burmalibrary.org/docs13/Catalyst_for_Conflict(bu)-red.pdf
http://www.palaungland.org/media/Report/catalystforconflict/English.pdf
http://www.palaungland.org/media/Report/catalystforconflict/Burmese.pdf
www.palaungland.org
Date of entry/update: 23 May 2012


Title: Untold Miseries - Wartime Abuses and Forced Displacement in Burma’s Kachin State
Date of publication: 19 March 2012
Description/subject: 'When Burmese President Thein Sein took office in March 2011, he said that over 60 years of armed conflict have put Burma’s ethnic populations through “the hell of untold miseries.” Just three months later, the Burmese armed forces resumed military operations against the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), leading to serious abuses and a humanitarian crisis affecting tens of thousands of ethnic Kachin civilians. “Untold Miseries”: Wartime Abuses and Forced Displacement in Kachin State is based on over 100 interviews in Burma’s Kachin State and China’s Yunnan province. It details how the Burmese army has killed and tortured civilians, raped women, planted antipersonnel landmines, and used forced labor on the front lines, including children as young as 14-years-old. Soldiers have attacked villages, razed homes, and pillaged properties. Burmese authorities have failed to authorize a serious relief effort in KIA-controlled areas, where most of the 75,000 displaced men, women, and children have sought refuge. The KIA has also been responsible for serious abuses, including using child soldiers and antipersonnel landmines. Human Rights Watch calls on the Burmese government to support an independent international mechanism to investigate violations of international human rights and humanitarian law by all parties to Burma’s ethnic armed conflicts. The government should also provide United Nations and humanitarian agencies unhindered access to all internally displaced populations, and make a long-term commitment with humanitarian agencies to authorize relief to populations in need.'
Language: English
Source/publisher: Human Rights Watch
Format/size: pdf (1.7MB - OBL version; 2.25MB - original))
Alternate URLs: http://www.hrw.org/sites/default/files/reports/burma0312ForUpload_1.pdf
Date of entry/update: 20 March 2012


Title: KIO warns China: Myitsone Dam could spark ‘civil war’
Date of publication: 20 May 2011
Description/subject: "In an open letter sent to Chinese President Hu Jintao, the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) has asked China to stop the planned Myitsone Dam to be built in Burma’s northern Kachin state, warning that the controversial project could lead to civil war. The English-language letter dated March 16 but only recently made public and obtained by Mizzima states that the KIO ‘informed the military government that KIO would not be responsible for the civil war if the war broke out because of this hydropower plant project and the dam construction’..."
Language: English
Source/publisher: Mizzima
Format/size: html
Date of entry/update: 20 May 2011


Title: SPDC road construction plans creating problems for civilians
Date of publication: 27 January 2006
Description/subject: "In the opinion of one KHRG field researcher, “The SPDC’s road construction plans are related to the Salween dam project.” The dam itself, however, is partly a weapon to extend the regime’s control. The SPDC and its predecessors have tried to military crush all resistance in the Karen hills for over 50 years already without success, so ‘development projects’ like roads and dams are a new tactic for penetrating areas where resistance forces are strong and forcing villagers out of the hills to settle in state-controlled areas. The first to suffer from the road construction are the villagers living under SPDC control, who have to secure the road construction, carry loads, act as messengers and provide food and materials. Many will also have their fields or irrigation systems destroyed and their livelihoods undermined. Then will come the effects on displaced villagers living beyond SPDC control, whose mobility and security will be threatened by the roads and increased militarisation, undermining their food security, physical security, and their children’s access to education. The SPDC forces would like these people to go and live under their control, but the villagers know that if they stay under SPDC control they will have to do forced labour as porters, carrying loads, and as messengers, and will face extortion and looting of their money, livestock and belongings. There is some speculation that the dam project itself, by threatening the territory and supply lines of resistance forces, could also lead to intensified armed conflict, and villagers in the area would be the first to suffer from this. Dozens of villages and huge areas of forest and farmland would be inundated, most likely with no compensation offered to villagers except the option of moving to an SPDC-controlled village where they would be landless labourers, regularly exploited for forced labour. The future is therefore very uncertain for the thousands of Karen villagers living in this region."
Language: English
Source/publisher: Karen Human Rights Group Orders Reports (KHRG #2006-B1)
Format/size: pdf (338 KB)
Alternate URLs: http://www.khrg.org/khrg2006/khrg06b1.html
Date of entry/update: 28 January 2006


Title: Karen Human Rights Group Commentary #95-C4
Date of publication: 04 August 1995
Description/subject: "...SLORC continues to show no remorse whatsoever for its continually expanding program of civilian forced labour throughout Burma. Roads, railways, dams, army camps, tourist sites, an international airport, pagodas, schools - virtually everything which is built in rural Burma is now built and maintained with the forced labour of villagers, as well as their money and building materials. Forced labour as porters fuels the SLORC's military campaigns, while forced labour farming land confiscated by the military, digging fishponds, logging and sawing timber for local Battalions fills the pockets of SLORC military officers and SLORC money-laundering front companies such as Union of Myanmar Economic Holdings Ltd. Even farming one's own land is more and more becoming a form of forced labour, as SLORC continues to increase rice quotas which farmers must hand over for pitiful prices. Even after a year like 1994, when record floods destroyed crops in much of the country, the quotas must be paid - if not, the farmer is arrested and the Army takes his land, only to resell it or set up yet another forced labour farm. 1995 has seen very small harvests, increased confiscation and looting of rice and money from the farmers, 40 million people struggling to avoid starvation, and SLORC agreeing to sell a million tonnes of rice to Russia for profit - rice which it has confiscated from village farmers for 50 Kyat a basket, or for nothing..."
Language: English
Source/publisher: Karen Human Rights Group (KHRG #95-C4)
Format/size: html
Date of entry/update: 22 November 2009