News / Asia

Analysts Fear Burma's Reforms Stalling

A couple takes a self-portrait at People's Square on Valentine's Day near Shwedagon pagoda in Rangoon, Feb. 14 , 2014.
A couple takes a self-portrait at People's Square on Valentine's Day near Shwedagon pagoda in Rangoon, Feb. 14 , 2014.
Ron Corben
Analysts said there are fears Burma's program of political and economic reforms are stalling before the 2015 national elections.  Bangkok rights concerns are growing as the foreign business community remains upbeat over Burma's long term economic potential.

The Asian Development (ADB) said Burma can become a middle income country by 2030 if it is able to sustain economic growth rates of more than six percent a year.

The economic and political reforms begun in 2011 have led most nations to set aside long standing economic sanctions against military rule in Burma, which is also known as Myanmar.

Australian lawyer and consultant on Burma John Hancock said foreign investors recognize Burma's potential.

"It is just remarkable what has happened there in the last five, six, seven years.  The opening up has been just quite remarkable," he said. "The will to change, the will to move forward, is quite amazing.  There is such potential there now.  Everyone wants to be there, everyone is willing to throw money in there to support their interest to get on the fast track."            

But Hancock said economic challenges include land reform, infrastructure spending and education, as well as rebuilding the country's civil service.

Burma remains one of the poorest nations in South East Asia, with more than one quarter of the population of 61 million living below the national poverty line.  Many of the poor are in the rural areas and affected by an absence of adequate land registration and titling, leaving millions vulnerable.

The editor of the Irrawaddy newspaper, Aung Zaw, said many in Burma fear a regression in the pace of reform.

"It has been more than three years, people now in Burma said that they have seen a regression on every front, particularly with the 'gold rush,' Zaw said. "The world is going in [to Burma] and they praise the regime for making the changes.  They were just fooled by this reform process. If you looked at it now it is very messy because this land confiscation is unresolved.  It is a huge issue in the country."

Zaw said in the border regions evidence points to the army "taking over everything," forcing villagers to relocate in order to make way for foreign investment. He said development of Special Economic Zones, such as Dawei in Burma's south, have drawn foreign investors, but often at huge social and environmental costs as people are forced to leave their homes, often without adequate compensation.

The Australian government has warned investors that individuals and companies with close ties to Burma's military continue to exercise influence across many areas of the economy, including oil, gas and timber.  

An economist at Sydney-based Macquarie University, Sean Turnell, said reform has also slowed in the agricultural sector where 65 percent of Burma's population makes a living.

"What I am really struck by is the lack of progress in agriculture.  What would make the biggest difference now to the lives of the people?  It is about reforming agriculture," he said. "One aspect is the land and somehow bringing about land security and in that front alone we have actually seen regression rather than any progress." .

Turnell said without land rights farmers have little access to credit leading to high rates of indebtedness.  Reforms are also facing resistance from conservative members in the government.

Analysts said the key lies in the outcome of the 2015 national elections, but say vested interests fearing further change are working to undermine reforms by stirring ethnic and religious divisions.

You May Like

Photogallery Early Nigeria Results Show Buhari Leading; Tampering Concerns Mount

One local group monitoring polls is concerned politicians might use security agencies to 'fiddle with the election collation process' at state level More

UN: 7,300 Civilians Killed in Boko Haram Insurgency

A senior UN humanitarian official tells the United Nations Security Council 1,000 people have been killed this year More

Turkish President Warns Iran About Trying to Dominate Middle East

Warning comes amid growing concerns inside Turkey that it will be sucked into a sectarian conflict with its neighbor More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadistsi
X
Greg Flakus
March 30, 2015 6:48 PM
At this year's annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Texas, some musicians from Mali were on hand to promote a film about how their lives were upturned by jihadists who destroyed ancient treasures in the city of Timbuktu and prohibited anyone from playing music under threat of death. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin, some are afraid to return to their hometowns even though the jihadists are no longer in control there.
Video

Video Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadists

At this year's annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Texas, some musicians from Mali were on hand to promote a film about how their lives were upturned by jihadists who destroyed ancient treasures in the city of Timbuktu and prohibited anyone from playing music under threat of death. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin, some are afraid to return to their hometowns even though the jihadists are no longer in control there.
Video

Video With Coalition Airstrikes, Iraq Entering 'Last Page' of IS Battle

American warplanes joined Iraq's battle against the so-called 'Islamic State' in northern Iraq late Wednesday, as Iraqi ground troops launched a massive assault on Tikrit. Analysts say the offensive could take the coalition a step further towards Mosul, the largest city held by Islamic State forces. Others say it could also deepen already-dangerous sectarian tensions in the region. VOA's Heather Murdock has more from Cairo.
Video

Video Philippines Wants Tourists Spending Money at New Casinos

Tourism is a multi-billion dollar industry in the Philippines. Close to five million foreign visitors traveled there last year, perhaps lured by the country’s tropical beaches. But Jason Strother reports from Manila that the country hopes to entice more travelers to stay indoors and spend money inside new casinos.
Video

Video Civilian Casualties Push Men to Join Rebels in Ukraine

The continued fighting in eastern Ukraine and the shelling of civilian neighborhoods seem to be pushing more men to join the separatist fighters. Many of the new recruits are residents of Ukraine made bitter by new grievances, as well as old. VOA's Patrick Wells reports.
Video

Video Islamic State Prisoners Talk of Curiosity, God, Regret

Islamic State fighter, a prisoner of Kurdish YPG forces, asked his family asking for forgiveness: "I destroyed myself and I destroyed them along with me." The Syrian youth was one of two detainees who spoke to VOA’s Kurdish Service about the path they chose; their names have been changed and identifying details obscured. VOA's Zana Omer reports.
Video

Video Germanwings Findings Raise Issue of Psychological Testing for Pilots

More is being discovered about the co-pilot in the crash of Germanwings Flight 9525 in the French Alps. Investigators say he was hiding a medical condition, raising questions about the mental qualifications of pilots. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.
Video

Video Hi-tech Motorbike Helmet's Goal: Improve Road Safety

In cities with heavily congested traffic, people can get around much faster on a motorcycle than in a car. But a rider who is not sure of his route may have to stop to look at the map or consult a GPS. A Russian start-up company is working to make navigation easier for motorcyclists. Designers at Moscow-based LiveMap are developing a smart helmet with a built-in navigation system, head-mounted display and voice recognition. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video DOJ: Illinois National Guard Soldier Tried to Join ISIS

U.S. federal law enforcement agents arrested two suburban Chicago men accused of trying to join ISIS overseas, while also plotting attacks in the United States. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports from the Midwest state of Illinois, one of those arrested is a soldier of the Illinois National Guard.
Video

Video New Wheelchair Is Easier to Use, Increases Mobility

Traditional push-rim wheelchairs create a lot of stress for arm, shoulder and neck muscles and joints. A redesigned chair, based on readily available bicycle technology, radically increases mobility while reducing the physical effort. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.

VOA Blogs

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More