The ethnic populations have suffered the most as a result of long-standing hostilities with the central government. They have been perceived as enemies of the state and second class citizens. The effects of a protracted war and neglect by the central government have left many ethnic areas in a dire situation.
In particular, the Myanmar Army’s “4 cuts policy” that was targeted against resistance groups and civilians from 1996-98, has caused severe damage to the economy in areas within, and outside, of the conflict zone.
The 4 cuts policy included:
- cutting and blockading communications between rebel armed groups
- embargo of people and consumer goods entering rebel territories
- search and destruction of core members responsible for supply, information, funds and recruits
- embargo on trade to reduce rebel revenue
Until today, areas of the country with high ethnic density populations remain the most impoverished in the country. Lack of communication and understanding is also a major reason that deep ethnic cleavages and distrust still exist between the different nationalities and the majority Burman population.
Profile of ethnic grievances:
- ethnic states are found to have the highest percentage of people living in poverty: Chin state (73%), Rakhine state (44%) and Shan state (33%)29
- under development in ethnic areas e.g. no electricity, proper roads and other basic infrastructure
- land confiscation and forced relocation
- unfair distribution of revenue from natural resources
- literacy levels are the lowest in ethnic states, according to 2010 statistics: Shan state (75% - eastern Shan state 52.2%), Rakhine state (75.1%), Kayah state (84.7), Kachin state (87.2%), Chin state (87.4%), Kayin state (89%)30
- the incidence of drug abuse is highest among ethnic youth, especially in Kachin and Shan states - some claim that it is a deliberate strategy by the government to weaken the ethnic youth and prevent them from joining insurgencies
- lack of social and cultural rights: currently many ethnic groups do not have the right to learn or teach in their own language, and there is no protection for traditional cultural practices or heritage sites
- environmental and social impact of development projects:
1. land confiscation for projects
2. flooding caused by projects
3. forced relocation caused by projects
- inequality in regards to political rights
- higher incidences of human rights violations (forced labor, arbitrary taxation, land confiscation, racial and religious discrimination)