Monday, September 30, 2013

Weekly Highlights: A Dangerous Precedent for Development in Burma

 

23-29 September 2013

 

Weekly Highlights

A Dangerous Precedent for Development in Burma

On 30 September, Shwe Gas Movement released a new report entitled, "Drawing The Line: The Case Against China's Shwe Gas Project, For better Extractive Industries in Burma". The report highlights the consequences, violations, unequal development, inadequate laws and the dangerous precedent set by the Shwe Gas Project. With increased investment and the liberalization of Burma's economy, development projects similar to Shwe Gas are set to increase. If they follow a path of code and conduct similar to the Shwe Gas Project, the future of Burma will be rife with increased land confiscation, labor abuse, environmental degradation, loss of livelihoods, conflict, arrests and imprisonment of rights activists defending themselves and their communities. The benefits will be unequally distributed and negative consequences will be borne by farmers, fishermen, and by the citizens of Burma.

The Shwe Gas Project is the largest extractive resource project in Burma with dual gas and oil pipelines traveling almost 800km beginning in Arakan State, passing through Magway and Mandalay Regions, exiting Burma through northern Shan State and terminating in Kunming, China. The now operational project provides China with a valuable energy transportation system and is expected to earn US$54 billion for the Burma government, a government that was given the lowest resource governance ranking in the world three months ago by the Revenue Watch Institute.

This is the first major development project to be completed in Burma since the country began its reform process and will set the standard for future development. Judging by the information from the Shwe Gas Movement's report and previous ones, this is extremely worrying. Land has been confiscated with inadequate or no compensation given, proper consultation was absent, environmental standards were disregarded and any dissenting voices were viciously suppressed. Last week ten activists peacefully protesting the Shwe Gas Project on Maday Island in Arakan State were arrested and sentenced to three months in prison. They were charged with protesting without permission under Article 18 of the Peaceful Assembly and Peaceful Procession Law, despite the fact that they had applied four times to hold the peaceful protest.

This development project is more than the pipeline; there are also offshore natural gas platforms, an onshore natural gas terminal, a deep sea port and a crude oil storage facility. It has been reported that there will be US$1.6 million spent in 2013 alone on socioeconomic development projects in association with the pipeline. If there continues to be a similar pattern of absent due diligence, inadequate harm mitigation, and weak environmental protection, these projects could again bring more harm than good to the local communities.

The Shwe Gas Project is just the beginning of large-scale problem-riddled development projects. The Tavoyan Women's Union (TWU) released a video on 26 September highlighting the abuses resulting from the Tavoy Deep Sea Port project. The video highlights environmental destruction, threats of eviction and the loss of livelihoods and cultural heritage. TWU and the local communities are calling for an immediate halt to the project. 

As the "Drawing The Line" report states, "Investors are clamoring at our door. They want our resources." How these projects are developed, how the resources are used, what standards are followed or ignored, will have a tremendous impact on peoples and communities, and thus the future of Burma. They will play a significantly large role in determining if Burma develops into a prosperous, free and democratic country where all people are able to live in dignity, peace, justice and harmony, or if Burma's future will be continually marred by conflict, human rights violations and environmental destruction where people will continue to live in despair and insecurity.

News Highlights

 

President Thein Sein assigns 23 deputy ministers as chairpersons of newly formed Cabinet sub-committees of a Special Taskforce to deliver reforms more effectively

 

Inside Burma

A 5-member state-level Constitutional Review Committee is formed in Shan State

Hundreds of representatives from ethnic groups and government officials attend a "trust-building" conference in Taunggyi, Shan State

Recently formed Kachin Democratic Party files for registration with the Union Election Commission

Kachin Independence Army to meet with Union Peace Working Committee from 8-10 October

Burma Army launches assault on the Shan State Army - North in Namtu Township, northern Shan State

Burma Army deploys three battalions along the Bangladesh border to address instability in Arakan State

Rohingya prisoner dies after being tortured in Buthidaung jail, Arakan State

Buddhist mobs torch two Muslim homes in Sandoway, Arakan State

Minister for Agriculture and Irrigation Myint Hlaing says only a quarter of confiscated land is being used

 

Regional

 

Union Parliament Speaker Shwe Mann and Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra agree to speed up the development of the Tavoy Economic Zone in Tenasserim Region

 

International

US State Department and Treasury Department delegation to visit Burma to assess and share information about remaining sanctions

World Bank to give US$140 million interest-free loan for the upgrade of a power plant in Thaton, Mon State

 

Opinion

Western Business Must Walk the Talk in Myanmar
By Errol P. Mendes
The Huffington Post

Myanmar: 'No Woman, No Peace'
By Pailin Wedel
Global Post

Latest from the Blog

 

Civil Society Commemorates International Peace Day in Burma

By Burma Partnership

 

Actions

Leaders of the Saffron Revolution call for Rangoon Division Chief Minister Myint Swe to be held accountable for his alleged role in the violent crackdown against demonstrators and monks

Nearly 500 villagers protest the sentencing of 10 community leaders for demonstrating against the Shwe Gas Pipeline without permission in Kyaukphyu Township, Arakan State

Statements and Press Releases

Statement on International Day of Peace
By 68 civil society organizations from Burma

Burma Refuses To Sign Sexual Violence Declaration
By Burma Campaign UK

Burma: Release Ten Arakanese Activists, Amend Peaceful Assembly and Peaceful Processions Law
By Shwe Gas Movement, Burma Partnership, Human Rights Education Institute of Burma and Fortify Rights International

Tavoyan Women Expose Abuses Linked to Dawei Deep Sea Port, Call for Project to be Suspended
By Tavoyan Women's Union

The Elders Encourage All Parties in Myanmar to Advance National Reforms, Support Peace Accords
By The Elders

Statement on the Situation of the Rohingya in Burma
By United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

Reports

Burma Update: Serious Crimes Continue
By Altsean-Burma

Rule By Law: An Analysis of the Use of Legislation to Stifle Civil Society Space in Burma
By Burma Partnership

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