The Greening of a Dictatorship
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The Greening of a Dictatorship

By Zao Noam OCTOBER, 2004 - VOLUME 12 NO.9

(Page 4 of 4)

An article in a 2003 issue of the New Light of Myanmar challenged the Global Witness report, saying, “The Myanmar Forest Policy has been formulated in a holistic and balanced manner…with the environment and sustainable development taking full cognizance of the forestry principles adopted at the United Nation Conference on Environment and Development, 1992.”


These remarks illustrate how the regime uses international environmental treaties to create an illusion of an environmentally responsible military administration, despite their politically and financially motivated clandestine resource extraction.


In one recent article in the journal Conservation Biology the authors admitted that six of twenty protected areas they reviewed had “military camps and/or insurgents indicating availability of firearms.” The six were named as Shwe U Daung, the Taunggyi Bird Sanctuary, Lamp Island Marine Park, the Shwesettaw Wildlife Sanctuary, the Pidaung Wildlife Sanctuary and Alaungdaw Kathapa National Park. In addition, numerous others have been found to have plantations, mining or logging operations within protected areas.


Among many suggestions for improvements, there is no mention in the article of how the contradictions of military bases and commercial extractive industries within protected areas might signal a problem with conservation in Burma.


Rangoon is not only using environmental rhetoric as a platform to enable state control to penetrate indigenous insurgent territory; it is using the adoption of international environmental treaties as a tool to gain political legitimacy.


Biodiversity conservation has been transformed by being adopted by the Burmese government. Their separate agendas become blurred, with a resulting hybrid of the Burma Army conducting politically sensitive conservation projects.


This “greening” of a military dictatorship creates contradictions as human rights abuses continue unchecked, civil society participation is ruled out and natural resources are exploited to earn foreign currency.


Zao Noam is a researcher on environmental politics in Burma.

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