MPs Say States Should Get Cut of Resource Revenues

By Lawi Weng, Reform 10 August 2012

Burma’s Upper House of Parliament agreed on Thursday to discuss a proposal to share natural resource revenues with the states and divisions where the resources are located.

The proposal, made by Saw Maung Phyu, a member of the Upper House from the Rakhine Nationalities Development Party, calls on the central government to “allot a suitable rate or 25 percent” of wealth from resources with state and division governments.

According to the state-run New Light of Myanmar, the proposal was made “according to the matters prescribed in schedule one of the Union Legislative List of Section 96” of Burma’s military-drafted 2008 Constitution.

“I’m not asking the government to amend the Constitution. I just want them to share with the ethnic governments and recognize that we are all brothers,” Saw Maung Phyu told The Irrawaddy.

He added, however, that he wants Burma to have a federal system, and not the unitary party system prescribed by the Constitution.

Nai Bayar Aung Moe of the All Mon Region Democracy Party was among those who supported the proposal. “I agree with his idea and will back it in Parliament. Our ethnic people should not be asking for just a few pya,” he said, referring to the smallest units of the Burmese currency.

“It is time to build a federal union and demand equal rights,” he added.

The proposal won the support of more than 40 MPs, the minimum required to be accepted for further discussion. The next step is to get the approval of the Parliament’s drafting committee, said Phone Myint Aung, a New Democracy Party MP for Rangoon Division’s Constituency 3.

One issue that is likely to lead to resistance to the proposal is the fact that some states and divisions have far more resources than others. Most of Burma’s natural resources are concentrated in the country’s predominantly ethnic states.

“For instance, Kachin State has jade and Arakan State has gas. Rangoon doesn’t have such resources,” said Phone Myint Aung.

This division has played a major role in perpetuating conflicts between the central government and ethnic armed groups. Under Burma’s former military junta, much of the income generated from exploitation of natural resources was used to fund the army’s efforts to suppress ethnic rebels.

Some ethnic MPs who support the proposal say they are worried that the ruling military-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party and military appointees in Parliament will shoot it down, just as they did with another recent proposal calling on government officials to declare their assets.

That proposal, put forth by National league for Democracy MP Dr. Myat Nyar Na Soe, was rejected earlier this week.