Rakhine groups call for halt to 10 resource projects lacking public consent

Rakhine political parties and civic groups have called for an end to 10 natural resource-based projects in Rakhine State they say the Myanmar government granted without securing Rakhine people’s consent.

A total of 55 representatives from Rakhine political parties, civic organisations in 17 Rakhine townships, and local women’s associations attended a workshop last week in which they agreed to call for a halt to the projects, according to a joint press release on Monday.

The workshop, on the control over natural resources in Rakhine, was held from October 14-16 in Mrauk-U Township. Organized by the Public Resources Group, it focused on several issues related to the environmental and social impacts of the government’s projects on the Rakhine people.

“Rakhine is a region rich in natural resources. It is earning the most foreign income for the country. However, it is a sad fact for the entire Rakhine people that Rakhine is the least developed and the second poorest region in Myanmar,” said the press release.

The release listed 10 projects as lacking the consent of Rakhine ethnics, including the Kyaukpyu-Kunming Rail Project, the Shwe Gas Pipeline, the Maday Island Deep-sea Port and Special Economic Zone Project in Kyaukpyu Township, and the Hotel Zone and Agriculture Project in Manaung Township.

The other projects said to have been approved without public consent are the Kaladan River-course Project, the Titanium Production Project in Maungdaw Township, the Nayputaung Mine Project in Toungup Township, and three hydropower projects—the Laymyo hydropower project in Mrauk-U, the Thahtay Stream hydropower project in Thandwe, and the Ann River hydropower project in Ann Township.

In their press release, the Rakhine groups made a number of requests to the central government. Among them, they are asking for electricity to be supplied in Rakhine at the same price charged in Yangon, and they want to see more development in the state’s education, healthcare, economy and transportation systems.

The groups are insisting on making it a constitutional right for Rakhine people to have control over the natural resources explored in their region. As long as a genuine federal system is not in place, they argue, resource-utilizing projects should be suspended.

The military and companies have been asked to return the grabbed lands to the farmers. Other requests include freeing jailed activists, enact measures to require environmental and social assessments for business projects, protect cultural and historical buildings according to UNESCO standards, and act on requests made by Rakhine’s state-wide mass meeting held during May 27-29.

Source: ELEVEN Myanmar

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