Arakanese Network Plans Protest Over Natural Resource Ownership

By Moe Myint 23 August 2016

RANGOON – The Arakan Natural Resources and Environmental Network (ANREN) has said its members and supporters will march from the Arakan State capital of Sittwe to Kyaukphyu Township in the first week of November, demanding the decentralization of natural resources by the Union government.

ANREN is made up of approximately 30 Arakanese civil society and environmental rights groups, and recently formed a committee, which includes the People’s Resource Network (PRN), of which Kyaw Zeya—who spoke to The Irrawaddy—is a member. He said that the march was finalized and approved by the ANREN committee in Sittwe, and that the rally is a declaration that Arakan’s natural resources belong to the state.

There are also calls to amend Burma’s military-drafted 2008 Constitution, which says that all resources are owned by the central government. Specifically, Article 37(a) stipulates that all lands and natural resources both above and below ground and water, are owned by the government; sub-section (b) states that the government can enact necessary laws to handle the extraction and utilization of these state-owned resources.

Kyaw Zeya said that an exact date has not been decided for the protest but that the network is planning to apply for permission from the authorities to peacefully assemble. The beginning of the march is specified as taking place in Sittwe, with protesters then successively passing through the towns of Ponnagyun, Minbya, Mrauk-U, Kyauktaw, Ann, and Ma-Ei before reaching Kyaukphyu. ANREN expects that more than 10,000 participants from at least eight townships will join the rally.

The ANREN committee began a signature campaign in early May throughout 17 Arakan State townships. The resulting petition intends to present the Arakanese perspective on natural resources, that “Rakhine people own Rakhine resources.”

So far, 260,000 signatures have been collected. The committee is expected to gather around 300,000 signatures from the rest of the state by the end of this month, according to Tun Kyi, secretary of the Kyaukphyu Rural Development Association, also a member of ANREN.

According to rights groups, the signatures will be delivered to the State Counselor’s Office, the Union Parliament and the President.