Myanmar: The state, community and the environment

Monique Skidmore
Trevor Wilson
Copyright Date: 2007
Published by: ANU Press
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  • Book Info
    Book Description:

    Despite deteriorating economic and developmental conditions, worsening environmental problems, and troubles arising from the unresolved status of its ethnic minorities, Myanmar seems no closer to a political resolution. Myanmar's economy continues to stagnate, with severe implications for its people. Low levels of international assistance have exacerbated the situation. Myanmar—the state, community and the environment examines the missed opportunities by government and opposition groups to find a way out of the political impasse and improve the standard of living of the people of Myanmar. This collection provides insights into the country's economic development, in particular the vital rice-marketing sector and the attempts to expand existing industrial zones. It focuses, for the first time, on Myanmar's environmental governance with in-depth case studies, and on the increasing need for effective environmental protection and sustainability.

    eISBN: 978-1-921313-37-0
    Subjects: Business

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Tables
    (pp. vi-vii)
  4. Figures
    (pp. vii-vii)
  5. Maps
    (pp. vii-vii)
  6. Abbreviations
    (pp. viii-x)
  7. Contributors
    (pp. xi-xv)
  8. Editors’ note
    (pp. xvi-xvi)
  9. Introduction
    (pp. xvii-xx)
    Monique Skidmore and Trevor Wilson

    In the early years of the millennium, Burma/Myanmar endured several major crises that only aggravated the overall stress and the trying circumstances in which the country and the people found themselves. First, a banking crisis in 2002–03 brought the cash economy close to the point of collapse, from which it has still not fully recovered. Second, in May 2003 there was a serious political challenge to the military regime by the leader of the democratic opposition, Aung San Suu Kyi, to which the regime responded with characteristic ruthlessness in what has become known as the Depayin Massacre. Third, in...

  10. Assessing political/military developments after the departure of Khin Nyunt
    • 1 The political situation in Myanmar
      (pp. 1-17)
      Vicky Bowman

      The State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) is the most important actor in Myanmar’s political economy.

      This chapter focuses on the political situation in Myanmar in mid 2006 through the prism of the implementation of the seven-step ‘road-map’ of the SPDC, announced in August 2003 (Table 1.1). Outwardly, the implementation of this road-map appears glacial, with three years already devoted to step one (the resumption and completion of the National Convention to draw up a new draft constitution). But the road-map provides a framework that can be used to consider the wider political situation, as well as the SPDC’s agenda...

    • 2 A Burmese perspective on prospects for progress
      (pp. 18-35)
      Khin Zaw Win

      It has been said that history is written by the victors. In the same vein, progress can be said to be defined by who, or which side, is carrying it out. Superficially, a linear motion forwards is assumed, just as for the march of modernisation or of civilisation itself. But in reality, the very term ‘progress’ is a loaded one, and that it stands for a complex process.

      It is not surprising, therefore, that attempting to define progress in Myanmar’s case is a precarious undertaking. The incumbent regime steadfastly maintains that immense strides have been made since it assumed power...

    • 3 Of kyay-zu and kyet-su: the military in 2006
      (pp. 36-53)
      Mary Callahan

      To many observers, the Tatmadaw (Burmese, for ‘armed forces’) of 2006 appeared omnipotent. Its senior officers ran a state that had eliminated or neutralised major rivals. It had concluded truces with, or obtained surrenders from, nearly all of its former armed adversaries. The military completed a breakneck-paced expansion of its personnel, from 180,000 in 1988 to close to 400,000 in the mid 1990s (probably about 300,000 today). Garrisons now dot the map of the whole country, a vast change from the pre-1988, post-colonial setting. Commercial enterprises associated with the armed forces play significant roles in many sectors of the economy...

    • 4 Conflict and displacement in Burma/Myanmar
      (pp. 54-81)
      Ashley South

      Patterns of forced migration in Burma/Myanmar are structured by the changing nature of conflict in the country. While acutely vulnerable internally displaced persons do live in those few areas of the country that are still affected by significant armed conflict (especially in the insurgentprone eastern borderlands), the phenomenon of forced migration is more widespread and complex. Yet assessments of forced migration in the country as a whole have tended to be obscured by the focus on parts of eastern Burma that are accessible to agencies working across the border from Thailand. Much less is known about the situation in other...

    • 5 Foreign policy as a political tool: Myanmar 2003–2006
      (pp. 82-107)
      Trevor Wilson

      In the last quarter of 2004, observers were uncertain how the new leadership would handle Myanmar’s international relations, notwithstanding the continuity at the top of the regime. Spokesmen for the new leadership initially were at pains to reiterate their continuing commitment to Myanmar’s opening up to the world. Early statements were deliberately cast in reassuring terms for Myanmar’s most important neighbours—although these statements were very general. The key statement was by the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) spokesman Lieutenant-General Thein Sein, who gave a commitment that the national reconciliation ‘road-map’ would continue after the change of prime minister,...

  11. Assessing the economic situation after the 2001–2002 banking crisis
    • 6 Myanmar’s economy in 2006
      (pp. 108-134)
      Sean Turnell

      Myanmar was likely to experience moderate but superficial economic growth through 2006. The country’s ruling military regime, the self-styled State Peace and Development Council (SPDC), has claimed GDP growth rates in excess of 10 per cent per annum for almost a decade. If true, this would make Myanmar one of the world’s fastest and most consistently growing economies. These claims are without foundation, but a growth rate of between 1.5 and 4 per cent was not beyond reach for 2006. Such growth, however, would primarily be a consequence of the high prices Myanmar can now command for its exports of...

    • 7 Transforming Myanmar’s rice marketing
      (pp. 135-158)
      Ikuko Okamoto

      Creating a rice¹ marketing system to serve the national interest has been one of the central policy issues for the Myanmar government since independence. It is no exaggeration to say that agricultural policy in Myanmar has been synonymous with rice policy.

      Under the socialist government, a comprehensive system of controls over rice marketing was established for the first time, which introduced a rice rationing system for consumers along with a compulsory delivery system for procuring paddy directly from farmers to support the rationing system. At the same time, the exportation of rice became a state monopoly and served as the...

    • 8 Industrial zones in Burma and Burmese labour in Thailand
      (pp. 159-188)
      Guy Lubeigt

      The military government’s concerns with the industrialisation of Burma can be observed through the example of the development of satellite towns around Rangoon before the events of 1988 (Lubeigt 1989) and after them (Lubeigt 1993, 1994, 1995). The population surplus of downtown Rangoon and the squatters living around the pagodas and monastery compounds, who provided scores of demonstrators during the anti-socialist revolt, were expelled and forcibly resettled into the new townships created ex nihilo in far away paddy fields.¹ Potentially explosive crowds of Central Rangoon were dispersed to South and North Dagon, Shwepyitha and Hlaingthaya by a junta keen to...

  12. Implications of current development strategies for Myanmar’s environment
    • 9 Environmental governance in the SPDC’s Myanmar
      (pp. 189-217)
      Tun Myint

      The speed of environmental transformation in Burma has been intensified since the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) took power by violent military coup on 18 September 1988. Desperately needing financial capital to sustain its military power and engage in political and armed annihilation¹ of various insurgent groups (ABSDF Research and Documentation Center Office [unpublished]; Lintner 2002), the regime began indiscriminately exploiting the country’s natural resources. The reality, however, is that the institutional development for environmental governance falls behind the intensified uses and abuses of the natural environment in Burma. More imprudently, the benefits generated by intensification of environmental exploitation...

    • 10 Environmental governance of mining in Burma
      (pp. 218-245)
      Matthew Smith

      Mining is the extraction of non-renewable resources; as such, it is an inherently unsustainable practice. Even when carefully managed and monitored, mining always has social and environmental costs. This is especially true in developing countries, where environmental governance tends to be weaker than in industrial countries. Burma is an authoritarian state that has been ruled by successive military governments since 1962. The human rights violations and environmental degradation around the mining industry in Burma are similar to those happening in other extractive industries in the country, and they are indicative of the state of environmental governance: unfair and inefficient.


    • 11 Spaces of extraction: Governance along the riverine networks of Nyaunglebin District
      (pp. 246-270)
      Ken MacLean

      Contemporary maps prepared by the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) place most of Nyaunglebin District in eastern Pegu Division. Maps drawn by the Karen National Union (KNU), however, place much of the same region within the western edge of Kaw Thoo Lei, its term for the ‘free state’ the organisation has struggled since 1948 to create. Not surprisingly, the district’s three townships have different names and overlapping geographic boundaries and administrative structures, particularly in remote regions of the district where the SPDC and the KNU continue to exercise some control. These competing efforts to assert control over the same...

    • 12 Identifying conservation issues in Kachin State
      (pp. 271-289)
      Tint Lwin Thaung

      Kachin State in northern Myanmar is home to many biological hotspots, including subtropical moist forests, hill forests, alpine meadows and broadleaf and conifer forests (Olson and Dinerstein 1998). Global Witness (2005) recently reported considerable unease about the scale of illegal forest activities in Kachin State. Kahrl et al. (2004) analysed the China–Myanmar timber trade and its implications for forests and livelihoods in Myanmar’s Kachin State and the Yunnan Province of China. They found that China’s demand for timber was an underlying cause for the unsustainable harvest of valuable forests in Kachin State. Unsustainable logging was discussed comprehensively in the...

  13. Index
    (pp. 290-301)