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Regime Development and Minority Human Rights Violations | Nora E. Rowley

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Any discussion of minorities, human rights and Democratic progress in Burma must include the association of minority human rights violations and regime-international development, especially now that the West is rewarding the regime’s proclaimed reform with investments that will enhance regime development.

Burma’s border states have the majority of minorities and the majority of natural resources of value to the regime.

In early 2011, many regime military leaders retired to civilians. In March 2011, ex-general Thein Sein assumed the Presidency. This is the same Thein Sein who was the regime military leader in charge of 2008 Cyclone Nargis relief .

Also in March 2011, the Burmese military began attacking in northern Shan State . Then the next month they began attacking in next-door Kachin State . The military has attacked and displaced massive numbers of Shan and Kachin civilians.

Both these northern Burma areas are in or near the corridors of the oil and gas pipelines to China , have multiple hydropower dam developments and mining for gems and mineral .
Shan has Uranium, which has been of special interest to North Korea .

The regime has described the fighting with Shan and Kachin armies as insurgencies and civil wars, rather than soldiers taking up weapons in defense of attacks on their civilian populations.

In August 2012, Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) issued a report of surveys conducted for 2011 in areas of Karen State and Taninthargyi Divisions where there is no armed conflict. The survey found that human rights violations were up to 10 times higher around an economic development project than in other areas surveyed. These areas include development of an extensive Thai industrial zone and multiple hydropower dams,
In 2012, the International Labor Organization (ILO) lifted restrictions on Burma. PHR’s survey found that forced labor was not reported to ILO because either victims had never heard of ILO or didn’t know of ILO reporting mechanisms. ILO admits they have had limited access to ethnic areas. In light of this ILO admission, PHR questions how ILO could have assessed Burma’s forced labor situation and make the declaration of improvement?

Regime development in Rakhine State currently includes an India energy company drilling oil in Sittwe Township since 2008 . This onshore Block-L oil reserve extends to the Upper state border through Northern Rakhine where most Rohingya live. An India company is constructing a deep sea commercial port in Sittwe city . In connection with the deep sea commercial port, an Indian company is constructing the Kaladan Transportation Corridor. This project includes widening the Kaladan River, which forms the Eastern border of Sittwe Township. Sittwe has been designated as a special economic zone. Also, an India company will upgrade Sittwe General Hospital, which may become a private hospital.

Massive Rakhine offshore natural gas drilling has blocked local fishing , which been a large source of food and income generation.

China’s development in Kyauk Phyu Township, Rakhine includes drilling to extract oil from Block- M. Here, China has also constructed a deep sea commercial port and air and naval military bases. This area is also the beginning of China’s Burma cross-country gas pipeline .

In the Northern Rakhine, road and infrastructure development has been built with only Rohingya used as forced labor and massive Rohingya forced eviction and land confiscation.

When I was in Rakhine, I saw pervasive and disproportionate barriers to health care and health crises affecting the Rohingya. With research and ongoing monitoring upon return home, I found that the health and numerous other human rights violations I witnessed were most common and severe in areas of regime development.

The associations of regime development and minority human rights violations should be a wake-up call to international civilians that are under the delusion that development leads to the economic betterment of all the population.

Finally, the West’s reward to the regime will worsen the human development and human rights of minorities in Burma.

By Nora E. Rowley MD MPH

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