Economic and Political stakes

One of the most cited injustices affecting ethnic nationalities in their respective territories is unfair distribution of profits generated from natural resource extraction and large industrial projects by the central government and foreign investors. There is often little regard for the local populations who do not benefit from the wealth generated from their land, and yet have to endure the negative impacts resulting from development projects. Fair distribution of natural resource revenue has been raised as one of the main demands by several ethnic armed groups.

The government has been successful in negotiating ceasefires with ethnic armed groups by granting them some limited economic rights. This has especially been the case with groups such as the KIO in Kachin state and several others in Shan and Karenni states following the 1990 elections. After the 2010-elections, the government is once again offering economic and business incentives, both inside and outside of ceasefires, to convince armed groups to enter the legal fold.

To understand the economic topography of ethnic areas, below is a list of some major existing and proposed projects, as well as known unexploited resources.

natural resources map
Chin state Tamu Economic Zone (proposed), development project (such as Tamu-kalay road) and tea leaf plantation
6 dam projects: Zalui, Tongva, Ngasitvar, Paletwa, Namhlaung Creek, Laiva, Htweehsaung and Chichaung plant (all government)
Kachin state Logging, mining (gold, jade), agribusiness (rubber, teak, sugar cane plantation, banana plantation), rare earth reserves
Hydro-electric dams such as Myitsone, Tarpain, Chibwe, Pashe, Lakin, Phizaw
Karen state Logging (teak), mining (gold, lead), hydropower, link with Dawei Project, and rubber plantations
3 proposed Special Industrial zones: Myawaddy, Hpa-an, Phayathonzu
Karenni state Private rubber and palm plantations, logging and mining (lead, antimony) concessions, marble factory, Loikaw industrial zone
Dams: Lawpida, Beluchaung, Ywa Thit
Mon state Cashew nut, betel nut palms, rubber and palm oil plantations, logging, Yadana and Yetagun natural gas projects
Italy-Thai Development (ITD) Company’s railway, oil and gas pipelines and electricity transmission tower along the Trans-Border Corridor
Dawei Deep Sea Port and the Industrial Estate. There are also plans to establish two more industrial estates in Tanintharyi Region near the border at Teekee/Min The Mee Kee on ITD’s trans-border corridor link, and at Maw Taung on the road to Mergui/Myeik.
Rakhine state Shwe Oil and gas, Kyauk Phyu Economic zone, Sittwe and Kyauk Phyu deep seaports (proposed), Ponnagyun Industrial zone (proposed). Fishing and agribusiness, Kaladan River’s waterway.
Dams: Laymyo Chaung, Thahtay Chaung, Am Chaung, and Saidin
Shan state Mining (gold, silver, lead, zinc, ruby, coal), logging (teak), Agribusiness (Rubber, rice), tea plantation
Mong Hta industrial zone (proposed by RCSS/SSA), Namoum industrial zone (proposed by the government), Muse Trade Zone
Dams: Kengtawng, Mobye, Nawngpha, Paunglong, Shweli, Tasang, Yeywa, Zawgyi.