The Myitsone Dam was scheduled to be built at the confluence of the
Mali Hka and Nmai Hka rivers—the source of the Irrawaddy River. This
file photo, taken 21 years ago, shows the confluence where the Mali Hka
and Nmai Hka meet. Photo: Mizzima
The Myanmar government plans to renegotiate billions of dollars of
natural resource deals as it imposes tougher environmental standards and
clamps down on corruption, a leading US think tank said Monday.
The country's powerful military and Chinese firms could be most
affected by the move as the government pursues a radical reform agenda,
turning away from decades of junta rule, according to the Asia Society.
Myanmar has huge reserves of resources—ranging from petroleum to tin,
timber and precious gems—which have become notorious for corruption and
"Apparently, the government is preparing to renegotiate all
previously agreed-upon projects to ensure that appropriate safeguards
are in place and to subject future projects to stricter social and
environmental controls," said a report by the society, which has worked
closely with the old junta and new government.
Chinese firms dominate the foreign presence in Myanmar and could suffer.
"Contracts negotiated with the former government need to be reviewed
as the new government enacts new policies and signs on to new
international standards, so I don't think anyone is immune to that
approach," Suzanne DiMaggio, an Asia Society vice-president and
co-author of the report, told AFP.
DiMaggio said the value of the deals was probably in the billions of
dollars, an estimate agreed by other experts dealing with Myanmar.
The halting of the Chinese-backed Myitsone Dam in Kachin state in
2011 was "the first bell indicating that the rules would be changing,"
"Now with the development of new investment laws, we should expect
that momentum to continue." Myanmar is a candidate to join the
Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, which seeks to set
international standards in countries with major resource revenues.
Since the dam was halted, the government has faced new controversy
over a Chinese-backed copper mine development near Monywa in northern
Myanmar where there were clashes between security forces and local
people last year.
The Asia Society said the government will have to work with local communities to make sure all share from the resource profits.
It also said the government would have to take tougher action to reduce the military clout in the economy and political life.
Despite the change of government to a nominally civilian
administration, "large military companies maintain access to the lion's
share of the country's resources and, along with a handful of crony
businessmen, dominate the economy."
"Until the military can be removed from its economic domination of
the country, both political reconciliation with minority nationalities
and economic development are likely to remain elusive," the report
The report which set out 10 key obstacles faced by President Thein
Sein's reforming administration, also said that rooting out corruption
would be essential.
DiMaggio said the creation of a state anti-corruption committee was
an important first step but it would take time to end the corruption and
"Breaking down those structures, it is not going to happen overnight
and I think that is one of the reasons why investors are cautious," she
DiMaggio said there was still vital momentum behind the government
reforms but that it was crucial that they start producing results for
the vast majority of the 55 million population who still live in "abject