Myanmar's Leaders face a New Environmental Dilemma
Friday, 02 March 2012
The protests present a dilemma for the government, which must now learn to balance the antipathy of its citizens to exploitation of its natural resources against the vast amount of revenues that would be lost if the Shwe project were to follow the other two into oblivion. Under decades of military rule, protests against construction projects have been met with heavy-handed force. Now, if the government wants to speed up the democratization process, it must contend with what has become known as NIMBY – “not in my backyard” – in the west.
More than 125 organizations in 20 countries held demonstrations on March 1 and submitted a letter calling on President Thein Sein to postpone the trans-Burma oil and gas pipelines project, expressing serious concerns over human rights abuses as well as the social, economic and environmental impact on the Burmese people. Nearly 300 people participated in a demonstration in Yangon, wearing T-shirts with slogans like “Our Gas, Our Future.” At least nine activists were detained and interrogated by police for a brief period, but were freed. Another demonstration took place in the northern city of Chiang Mai in front of the Chinese consulate.