These few days we see the news reporting brutal police crackdown of civil and monk protest over a Burmese-Chinese copper mine north of Burma.
A friend visiting Burma just emailed about a less bloodied but similarly devastated stories about a Thai-own copper mine in another province of the country; the mine has poisoned the river and locals have no choice but live on in that environment.
Then on the phone my mom was telling stories of a changing/improving Burma she just watched from a documentary on ThaiPBS… about how the developing Dawei project and what’s happening around it have brought many Burmeses home — some labouring and earning less income in monetary term than slavering in Thailand but better to be close/reunite with family — some getting fast cash selling lands to project developers at prices 10 times what they bought.
And then reading this article on a night bus on my way to visit a community affected by gold mining in a province Northeast of Thailand:
ETHNIC CONFLICTS UNRESOLVED IN 60 YEARS: Burma’s civil wars — by Renaud Egreteau
«As Burma attempts to open up its economy to the world, its rich natural resources are arousing interest. Peripheral areas, especially Shan and Kachin states, are rich in timber and precious stones, and they have hydroelectric potential. The local communities are struggling to stop their territories being plundered by the Bamar majority — the army and conglomerates close to it — and foreign companies (Chinese and Thai). As long as Burma is unable to guarantee equitable and fairly distributed development, the predatory practises of the local war economies will continue, compromising the possibility of peaceful interethnic relations.»
Some years ago I decided with myself I will never travel (except necessarily relate to work) to this country until democracy and justice restored and something is done to ensure its people, all ethnic communities, can truly enjoy benefits from economic activities I would generate from my visit.
- Of course, this was a total childish thought.
Was justice realized when ASK was released?
Is it democracy when she got elected and still in opposition party?
This still doesn’t sound close to recognizing ethnic minorities’ rights and sovereignty?
Though it seems some parts of the country are opened with booming investment and industries – who really benefit? Resources extractions and industrialization are intensified via foreign investment; Soon enough pollution and hazardous legacy is unevitable, if not already but being kept silent.
But aren’t there any other way to “develop” sustainably without following the industrialized and consumerism path we have all been going through —- with many many scars left on local communities?
- How am I to answer all these questions…
I still hold this decision of my-personal-travel-to-Burma embargo…
Though I truly hope that chance will come for me to visit this beautiful country before the end of my time.