BEWG launched its latest report, “Burma’s Environment: People, Problems, Policies” that detailed the environmental crisis of serious proportions in post-election Burma. Representatives from various civil society organizations and from the tri-media attended and covered the event. The press conference was held on 25th July at the Foreign Correspondents Club in Bangkok.

The report reviews the current state of environmental management in Burma (includes domestic and international policies and mechanisms, and the roles of local and international NGOs and UN agencies), as well as highlighting the key environmental problems and the impacts on local people and environment and, also provide analysis on conflict over natural resources in ethnic areas before and after the elections in 2010.

Burma is rich in natural resources. However, it is facing serious threats and challenges from increasing large-scale extractions such as oil and gas exploitation, hydropower, mining and also vast concessions of mono-plantations. These development aggression activities have been causing serious environmental problems and social displacements in Burma.

Investment comes from countries within the region most significantly China, India and Thailand. Malaysia, Singapore, Japan, Vietnam and Korea are also key investments looking to increase investments after the elections.

Saw Paul Sein Twa, the BEWG coordinator said, “in Burma, there are existing laws and policies on environmental protection but  inadequate in implementation and enforcement. It lacks both administrative and legal structure and, safety nets to the affected and would be affected communities and environment from all these investments. For example, there is no law that requires the company or the government to conduct an environmental impact assessment, social impact assessment and they don’t have dispute settlement mechanisms and there is no provision in the 2008 Constitution that guarantees the right of the people to a clean, safe and healthy environment which is a basic human right.”

The report has revealed that The Government of Burma has signed and ratified international treaties on the protection of the rights of indigenous peoples and on the protection of the environment such as Convention on Biological Diversity and United Nation declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and as party to these agreements Burma is therefore has the obligation to protect, defend and fulfill such rights. But the reality is the opposite of what the Burmese government ought to do to its people and the environment.

BEWG is a group of ethnic environmental and social organizations in Burma working together for the protection of the environment and peoples. It monitors the development policies in Burma and advocates for alternative framework on sustainable development and the recognition of traditional practices and values. The following organizations compose the BEWG:

  • Arakan Oil Watch (AOW)
  • Bridging Rural Integrated Development and Grassroots Empowerment (BRIDGE)
  • EarthRights International (ERI)
  • Kachin Development Networking Group (KDNG)
  • The Karen Environmental and Social Network (KESAN)
  • The Lahu National Development Organization (LNDO)
  • Network for Environmental and Economic Development (NEED)
  • The Pa-Oh Youth Organization (PYO)
  • Shan Sapawa Environmental Organization (Sapawa)
  • The Shwe Gas Movement (SGM)