News / Asia

Burma Activists Say Funding Initiatives Could Undermine Peace Process

Grocery vendors sit on their boats to cross Irrawaddy river in Myitkyina, February 25, 2012, in Myitkyina, Kachin State, northern Burma.Grocery vendors sit on their boats to cross Irrawaddy river in Myitkyina, February 25, 2012, in Myitkyina, Kachin State, northern Burma.
x
Grocery vendors sit on their boats to cross Irrawaddy river in Myitkyina, February 25, 2012, in Myitkyina, Kachin State, northern Burma.
Grocery vendors sit on their boats to cross Irrawaddy river in Myitkyina, February 25, 2012, in Myitkyina, Kachin State, northern Burma.
Daniel Schearf
Burma activists say international funds established to encourage peace in ethnic rebel areas risk undermining the process.  Critics say the Norway and World Bank-led "peace funds" are prioritizing development instead of lasting political solutions.  Norway's ambassador refutes that notion and says their whole point is a lasting peace.

The aid plans were launched earlier this year by Norway, the World Bank, European Union, United Kingdom, United Nations and Australia.

Burma's reform-minded President Thein Sein, who since taking office signed ceasefires with most ethnic rebel groups, supports the mechanisms.

Concerns

But Burma rights groups complain they are not inclusive enough and focus too much on government development plans before a firm peace is established.

Khin Ohmar, with Burma Partnership, spoke at the Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand.  She says development should not be a substitute for political settlement.

"The government has clearly prioritized economic development over achieving a sustainable peace through the political dialogue.  And, what we're seeing now also is that there is lack of involvement of women and civil society in the process so far," she said.

Donations

The World Bank says its Community Driven Development Program is giving $85 million in grants for schools, roads, water and other projects to be decided by locals. 

Hundreds of millions more are expected to become available once Burma settles past debts with the bank.

The Norway-founded Peace Donor Support Group, formed in June at the request of President Thein Sein, pledged an initial $30 million for conflict-affected areas.

The primary focus is on development aid including short-term relief, de-mining, poverty alleviation and education. 

But, after consultation with rights groups and rebel groups, other projects being developed focus on implementing ceasefire agreements such as funding liaison offices and monitoring.

Objectives

Speaking to VOA by phone during a trip this week to Burma, Katja Nordgaard, Norway's ambassador to Burma, Cambodia and Thailand, said the goal of the peace funds is to encourage political dialogue.

"Everything we're doing is trying to ensure a lasting peace," said the ambassador.  "So, I mean, we're doing this in close consultation with the armed groups, with the government trying to build trust, trying to build contacts, establishing space for normal aid intervention to come in.  All of these things are going to be crucial for a lasting peace."

But rights groups say the peace funds fail to address some fundamental causes of conflict, such as resources.

Clashes

Fighting continues between the Burmese army and Kachin rebels since breaking out last year near China-backed hydropower and oil-pipeline projects. 

The exile Kachin News Group reports fighting has intensified since August near Hpakant, where the world's best quality jadeite is mined.

Although the reports cannot be independently verified, it is clear that much of the fighting in Kachin is about who controls the resources.

"Natural resources is a major cause of conflict in the area, where you can see big projects are and you can see militarization issues and human right abuses," explained Paul Sein Twa, with the Karen Environmental Social Action Network. "And, this I think, during the peace-building time, especially in the initial phase right now that's then the issues have to be addressed. And, issues related to benefit sharing, ownership issues or political decision over the management of these resources.  So, if we cannot address this from the beginning, I think it also can lead to a more conflict."

Norway's Ambassador Nordgaard says, although control of resources is not addressed through the peace funds, it will have to be addressed through the political dialogue.

And, although acknowledging the peace process is fragile, she rejects criticism the funding is coming too soon. "No, just the opposite I would say.  It's really important to support the ceasefires as they are and to encourage," said Nordgaard.

Norway's Myanmar Peace Support Initiative has provided a coordination and facilitation role between the ceasefire groups, authorities and locals since January.

You May Like

Amnesty: EU Failing Migrants, Refugees

Rights group says migrants, refugees subject to detention, extortion, beatings More

From South Africa to Vietnam, Cyclists Deliver Message Against Rhino Horns

Appalled by poaching they saw firsthand, sisters embark on tour to raise awareness in countries where rhino horn products are in demand More

Uber Wants Johannesburg Police Protection

Request follows recent protests outside ride-hailing service's Johannesburg office More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Making Music, Fleeing Bombs: New Film on Sudan’s Internal Refugeesi
X
Carolyn Weaver
July 06, 2015 6:47 PM
In 2012, Sudanese filmmaker Hajooj Kuka went to make a documentary among civil war refugees in Sudan’s Blue Nile and Nuba Mountains region. What he found surprised him: music was helping to save people from bombing raids by their own government. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video Making Music, Fleeing Bombs: New Film on Sudan’s Internal Refugees

In 2012, Sudanese filmmaker Hajooj Kuka went to make a documentary among civil war refugees in Sudan’s Blue Nile and Nuba Mountains region. What he found surprised him: music was helping to save people from bombing raids by their own government. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video Rice Farmers Frustrated As Drought Grips Thailand

A severe drought in Thailand is limiting the growing season of the country’s important rice crop. Farmers are blaming the government for not doing more to protect a key export. Steve Sandford reports from Chiang Mai, Thailand.
Video

Video 'From This Day Forward' Reveals Difficult Journey of Transgender Parent

In her documentary, "From This Day Forward", filmmaker Sharon Shattuck reveals the personal journey of her transgender father, as he told his family that he always felt he was a woman inside and decided to live as one. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Floodwaters Threaten Iconic American Home

The Farnsworth House in the Midwest State of Illinois is one of the most iconic homes in America. Thousands of tourists visit the site every year. Its location near a river inspired the design of the house, but, as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, that very location is now threatening the existence of this National Historic Landmark.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.

VOA Blogs