Kachin groups appeal to next government on resources
Mismanagement of resources is deepening conflicts in northern Myanmar. That is the conclusion of an appeal by more than 60 civil society groups, political parties and religious organisations to the incoming National League for Democracy government to ensure power sharing and accountability in implementing mega-projects in Kachin State.
U Tsa Ji, general secretary of the Kachin Development Networking Group and a spokesperson for the organisations taking part in a conference held in Myitkyina, said the ongoing conflicts in Kachin State were a consequence of mismanagement of natural resources, particularly jade.
“As some jade companies have close ties with senior government officials, those businesses are guarded by armed forces. This has made the situation more prone to fighting with local armed ethnic groups,” he said.
The jade industry is reported to be worth billions of dollars a year, but most of the trade takes place illegally.
U Tsa Ji said the appeal was intended in part as a riposte to a report by the Harvard Kennedy School of the US following consultations in Kachin State which the groups saw as revealing “huge ignorance” of the state’s local, cultural and historical context.
“We are calling for the halt of those businesses and projects as they lack transparency and accountability. More importantly, they lack social responsibility,” he said.
“The [US] report suggested that mega-dam projects should be continued,” he said.
The joint statement, whose signatories included a number of Christian groups, urged the next government “to disclose all information transparently and educate the people on grievance mechanisms in natural resource extraction, taxation, licensing processes, revenue sharing in respect of the ‘right to know’ of the people”.
However, U Tsa Ji said the statement did not mean that those businesses and projects are to be halted permanently, but that they could be continued once peace and political negotiations in Kachin State with respective stakeholders had been completed.
The statement called on the incoming government to let the state parliament freely choose its chief minister in order to endorse federalism and provide governance over Kachin State’s resources.
U Tsa Ji said the statement was also aimed at the outgoing government, the military and ethnic armed groups in calling on them to tackle conflicts and resource mismanagement.
“The people of Kachin State are the ultimate owners of all natural resources above and below the ground, above and beneath the water, and in the atmosphere in Kachin State,” the statement by 61 groups said.
It said the “ultimate management authority of natural resource extraction, taxation and management, [and] revenue sharing” should belong to the Kachin State government.
It also called for guarantees of “free, prior, informed … consent” of the local community before issuing operating permission for any projects.