Wednesday, 5 December 2012


Protest Camp in flames (Associated Press)
Myanmar (Burma) may be slowly moving towards democracy, but, other issues are yet to be resolved. Once important issue that is still to be resolved (not just in Myanmar) is the age old one of the relationship between who owns land, who lives on it and what other people (and governments) want to do with it.

Police have used water cannon and tear gas to break up protests against the development of a vast Chinese-backed copper mine in the north-west. Riot police used water cannons, tear gas and smoke bombs to break up the 11-day occupation of the Letpadaung copper mine, wounding dozens of villagers and Buddhist monks. Protesters said dozens were injured and that their  camps were set alight in Monywa town. Local farmers, monks and activists have been protesting against what they say are forced evictions to allow for the expansion of the mine, Burma's largest.

Aung San Suu Kyi (the Opposition leader) has visited the area to meet protesters and wants to mediate a settlement.  Protests by local farmers started last June when they say they  were forced to accept a deal (two years ago) which meant that they gave up their land in exchange for new housing and financial compensation. The mine is jointly owned by the Myanmar military and the Chinese arms manufacturer Norinco. The mine company has stated that the deal was voluntary, and that only a small minority of farmers rejected it. The expansion mine's billion-dollar expansion project covers several thousand hectares of land in Burma's Sagaing region.

When it comes to development, for natural resources, including minerals and food production or housing and sustainable energy developments (in Wales, Europe and across the world) there is a growing problem with finding the balance between economic development, the environment, job creation and the impact of development on local communities.  In the developing or the developed world the bottom line has to be that that local people should have a significant say or even control over the development process and any community should benefit from the development (or exploitation) of local resources.

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