Kachin Groups Urge Halt to Resource Extraction in Northern Burma

By The Irrawaddy 8 March 2016

More than 60 civil society organizations, political parties and religious groups representing the Kachin and ethnic subgroups released a statement on Monday calling for a halt to resource extraction in northern Burma’s Kachin State until political stability in the region can be achieved.

The groups put forward the demand after holding a forum to discuss natural resource governance in Kachin State, in the regional capital Myitkyina.

The statement, made by 61 signatory groups, called on respective stakeholders to “stop all project operations and natural resource extraction in ethnic areas without [first] resolving conflict politically,” adding that strife in the region was fueled by natural resource-based interests.

Kachin State is rich in natural resources such as gold, jade and other precious stones, as well as a significant but shrinking endowment of teakwood forests. The state has also been fertile grounds for conflict in recent years, particularly since a 17-year ceasefire between the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) and Burmese government collapsed in 2011.

Monday’s statement asserted that the Kachin people were the rightful owners of the state’s natural resource endowment, urging business stakeholders to “disclose all information transparently and educate the people—on grievance mechanisms in natural resource extraction, taxation, licensing processes, revenue-sharing—with consideration for the ‘right to know’ of the people.”

The coalition also called on the government to “ensure free, prior and informed consent with local communities before issuing operational permissions for any projects.”

The statement proposed empowering the Kachin State government with “ultimate management authority” on natural resource extraction, taxation and revenue-sharing.