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Minority communities in Burma say the exploitation of the country's
natural resources is damaging the environment and increasing the
military presence in their areas. The activists say greater public participation is necessary in the
development process to ensure that communities benefit.
Burma Environmental Group says the government's development policies
and efforts to extract natural resources have destroyed the homes of
thousands of people in border areas and is increasing hunger among
ethnic minority groups. On Thursday, the group released a report saying
there are more troops in minority areas and environmental damage is
The group includes representatives from the Kachin,
Karen, Lahu, and Shan ethnic communities in Burma. Most of these
communities live in Burma's border areas.
Saw Paul Sein Twa is
the director of the Karen Environmental and Social Action Network. He
says development projects have displaced half a million people because
their livelihoods are disrupted. Thousands of them have fled to
"So the path that the military government is taking us
is to environmental problems, lead us to crisis and will further
marginalize our ethnic people who are in the rural areas," he said. "So
you can see that many people are in refugee camps, as I said, more than
8,000 people in one area are facing starvation."
accuses the Burmese military of human rights abuses against local
communities, including beatings, killings, and sexual violence, as it
protects economic projects.
The group and other rights
organizations have called on the Chinese government to halt its
investment in an offshore oil and gas project, and seeks a halt in
several dam projects.
Saw Paul Sein Twa says the groups do not
oppose development in general but say public participation and is
needed before projects go ahead.
"The fundamental question is
development for whom? [This] needs to be addressed," he said. "The
local people have to benefit from any development project and number
two is people participation in this development process must be assured
that people participate. Before you start an environmental impact
statement must be done."
The report says as long as Burma
remains under military rule and communities can not take part in
decision-making, increased development in the border region will
accelerate environmental destruction and lead to unsustainable and