Burma’s environmental groups wary of potential investors

A Burma based environmental group has released a report outlining the major principles potential business investors should adopt in the country.

The Burma Environmental Working Group – an alliance of grassroots-based organizations – issued the statement entitled ‘Benchmarks for Investment in Burma’s Energy, Extractive and Land Sectors’ to serve, it says, as “a framework for responsible investment in critical sectors in Burma.”

“Investment in Burma must support genuine peace and national reform and must follow the will of local communities who have long paid the price for resource-driven investments through forced labor, land confiscation, illegal taxes, loss of life, and other human rights abuses,” said BEWG spokesperson Paul Sein Twa.

The report comes as by-elections in early April look to propel Aung San Su Kyi’s political party, the National League for Democracy, into parliament, widely heralded as a sign that the poverty stricken nation is inching towards democracy.

The five principles outlined dealt with the major concerns of corporate investment in Burma – exacerbating conflict in Burma, fuelling state corruption, degrading farmlands and livelihoods, and disempowering local communities.

“Adherence to the benchmarks will increase the likelihood that investment in sectors that have been historically linked with human rights and environmental abuses will benefit the people of Burma and does not undermine effective political, social and environmental progress in this emerging South East Asian country.” The report stated.

As Western leaders consider easing economic sanctions on President’s Thein Sein’s government, companies will be looking at the situation in Burma with growing interest as the country presents huge investment opportunities, particularly in terms of Natural Resources.

But Burma is still politically opaque, with a quarter of all seats in parliament reserved for the military and reports of ongoing abuses, including intimidation of political opponents, and the Burma Army’s on-going conflict in Kachin State, the country’s northernmost province, which has led to as many as 65,000 refugees.
For the full report go to

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