THE WISDOM FUND: News & Views
April 26, 2013
Guardian (UK)

The Dirty Fossil Fuel Secret Behind Burma's Democratic Fairytale

South-east Asian country's untapped natural wealth is being opened up, regardless of the environmental and human costs

by Nafeez Ahmed

New evidence has emerged that the systematic violence against ethnic Rohingya in Burma - "described as genocidal by some experts" - is being actively supported by state agencies. But the violence's links to the country's ambitions to rapidly expand fossil fuel production, at massive cost to local populations and to the environment, have been largely overlooked.

Over 125,000 ethnic Rohingya have been forcibly displaced since waves of violence swept across Burma's Arakan state last year, continuing until now, according to the New York-based Human Rights Watch's (HRW) latest sobering report. The "ethnic cleansing" campaign against Arakan's Muslim minority, although instigated largely by Buddhist monks rallying local mobs, has been the product of "extensive state involvement and planning", according to HRW's UK director David Mepham.

The group found:

"All of the state security forces [in Arakan] are implicated in failing to prevent atrocities or directly participating in them, including local police, Lon Thein riot police, the inter-agency border control force called Nasaka, and the army and navy."

Burma's Rohingya minority has resided in the country for decades, but been formally denied citizenship by the government, subjected instead to forced labour, arbitrary land confiscations, and routine discrimination. Although the latest violence raises urgent questions about the integrity of Burma's ostensible democratic reform process, the west has refused to allow the campaign against the Rohingyas to interfere with efforts to integrate the regime into global markets.

The last two years has seen first the US, then the UK and the EU, lift decades of economic sanctions with a view to "open a new chapter" in relations with Burma. . . .

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Dr. Nafeez Mosaddeq Ahmed is executive director of the Institute for Policy Research & Development in London. He has taught courses in contemporary history and international relations theory at the Department of International Relations, University of Sussex.

Peter Beaumont, "Burma's Leader Admits Deadly Attacks on Muslims," Guardian, October 27, 2012

Eric Draitser, "Race on for ports, pipelines in Myanmar," atimes.com, March 28, 2013

Joseph J. Schatz, "White House visit by Burma's Thein Sein a sign of changing times," washingtonpost.com, May 17, 2013

[Separate branches of the Myanmar state, including the executive office of President Thein Sein, the parliament, and the judiciary, have all tolerated or tacitly backed the neo-Nazi Buddhist movement known as "969".--Maung Zarni, "Neo-Nazi denial in Myanmar," atimes.com, May 24, 2013]

[Myanmar gets income, investment and integration into the world economy, while the US hopes to reassert its presence in a region that is crucial to the rebalancing strategy. The strengthening of ties with Myanmar helps Washington to contain China, which visualizes Myanmar as a vital communication link connecting the Indian Ocean - a route that bypasses the Malacca Strait.--MK Bhadrakumar, "Petty burglars of the Malacca Strait," atimes.com, June 4, 2013]

"Burma census is not counting Rohingya Muslims, says UN agency," Associated Press, April 2, 2014

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