China's fast growing capital expansion within South East Asia is raising concerns about landgrabs and exploitative practices, especially as it is often aligned with support for authoritarian regimes such as Burma.
BBC News - By the end of this year Myanmar should have been free of narcotics. Instead, production of opium is soaring and the East Asian country, once part of the fabled Golden Triangle, is the second largest producer in the world. Axel Kronholm investigates why.
IRIN - The reasons behind Myanmar’s six decades of ethnic warfare are many and varied, but General “Robert” Ar Nyun can tell you in a word why his group began fighting the government four years ago: drugs.
The resounding victory of the National League for Democracy in the November general election has raised hopes in Myanmar and around the world that, finally, the country could be on the road towards peace and democracy. Sadly, there have been too many failures in the past for simple optimism now. During the past half-century, there have been important highpoints before when expectations were raised that the national armed forces, known as Tatmadaw, would restore democratic rights to the people and nationwide peace might spread in the country.
Current drug control polices in South-east Asia are repressive and criminalise opium farmers, greatly affecting the lives of communities cultivating opium. Most policy responses – including from some armed opposition groups – focus on eradication of poppy fields and the implementation of strict bans on opium cultivation.
Today the Myanmar Opium Farmers' Forum released the report of its third meeting. The report stresses that farmers grow opium to ensure food security for their families and to provide for basic needs, and to have access to health and education. According to the report, "The large majority of opium farmers are not rich and grow it for their survival. Therefore, they should not be treated as criminals."
We are at a critical juncture in our history, more promising than at any time in recent memory. The country will have a civilian-majority government that came to office through the votes of a multitude of smaller nationality groups for a pan-national party promising political change. If this political transition is to succeed, poverty must be alleviated, corruption curtailed, drug abuse radically reduced, and a host of other social crises addressed that have long blighted our country.
The Irrawaddy - Several of Burma’s civil society organizations (CSOs) and ethnic community leaders have called for the government to develop a national land restitution policy for communities displaced by conflict.
What is the role of land in establishing lasting future peace in Myanmar? The country is at a crossroads, and facing rapid land polarization. However, the inauguration of a new government chosen by a landslide in historic elections offers an unprecedented opportunity to change course in a positive direction. An approach that prioritizes poor, vulnerable and marginalized groups especially ethnic nationalities, women, and youth, could lay a foundation for peace.
Aung San Suu Kyi and her NLD government faced a tough situation with China at the time of their inauguration in March. But, as she visits Beijing this week, hopes are high again in China that a redirection of Myanmar's foreign policy could be underway and the pendulum of Myanmar's balancing diplomacy is swinging back to the east. But many challenges lie ahead. These include resolution of the Myitsone dam impasse, repositioning political relations between the two countries, and peaceful settlement of ethnic conflicts in the Myanmar borderlands. The stakes are very high. The outcome of Aung San Suu Kyi's meetings could well come to define Myanmar-China relations for many years to come.
Amidst the many challenges Myanmar now faces, the threats to the environment are urgent – and they are growing more extreme. The situation is especially serious in the case of mega dams and hydropower where a host of projects are being promoted, without appropriate planning or public consultation, that are likely to cause irreversible harm to communities and natural ecosystems around the country. Not only are many of the projects located in nationality areas that are conflict zones, but the bulk of the energy produced will also be exported to neighbouring countries.
There are serious concerns that government reforms will further exacerbate land tenure and food insecurity for the majority of the population in Myanmar who rely on their farm fields and forests for their livelihoods.
For people affected by displacement, land is much more than just an economic asset. Being able to return to one’s original place is a deeply felt aspiration about restoring the social relations that constitute a person’s identity. The long-standing displacement of people, land-grabbing and non-existence of rights to land in many parts of the country mean that land reform and land restitution must be a central issue in any peace settlement. What happens today with the land is inextricably tied to the country’s future prospects for peace and democracy.
How is the peace process in Myanmar going? What progress has been made toward reform? After decades under military rule, the 21st Century Panglong Conference has been welcomed as the most encouraging recent initiative to address humanitarian suffering and national instability. It prioritises ethnic peace and political reform at a moment of opportunity for national reconciliation. However, as ethnic conflict and refugee displacement continue worrying failings have started to appear, raising many warnings from the country’s troubled history.
The recent political and economic liberalization in Burma/Myanmar, while indicative of some positive steps toward democratisation, has increased foreign and domestic investments and geared the economy toward industrialisation and large-scale agriculture. Land governance procedures and implementation tend to favour the more powerful and well-connected, with little protection mechanism for the majority smallholding farmers in the country.
This assessment is in response to the 6th draft of the NLUP, released in May 2015, following months of public and expert consultations. It outlines some of the key positive and negative points of the new draft.