How are internal conflicts contaminating Myanmar?

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Myanmar conflictMyanmar is a country in a state of transition, with one foot through the door of political liberalisation and the other stuck in civil unrest or conflict.

The “wait and see” policy adopted by former British Prime Minister Tony Blair has become the attitude de jour for most investors and entrepreneurs that are, despite their thought-out hesitation, still foaming at the mouth scouring for opportunities in the frontier economy.

The maddening violence that has been a prominent feature of Myanmar’s borderlands since British independence has yet to fully subside, leading analysts to foster cautious conclusions about just how long investors will stay sold on the reformist government’s story before being scared off.

Myanmar’s tourism, infrastructure and real estate sectors all remain jeopardised while violence continues along the borders regions, where more than 135 distinct ethnic groups have been identified.

Tourism and real estate in particular could feel the bunt of the blow if the predicted spike in arrivals from tourists and multinationals don’t come to fill up forthcoming hotels and serviced apartments.

Though Myanmar’s commercial and northern hubs of Yangon and Mandalay feel cloistered away from the conflict that seems to perennially spring up around them, tourist destinations have already been affected, and real estate developers are never keen to plow funds into a country that sizzles with economically disrupting tension.

In Arakan State, where ethnic minority Muslim Rohingyas have been the target of violent attacks by Buddhists, “the tourism business in the whole of Mrauk-U town has stopped,” a hotel owner said in the Irrawaddy, speaking of the popular temple site located in the disturbed region.

In Myanmar’s northernmost region, Kachin State remains the site of one of the longest and bloodiest conflicts in Asia, where descendents of the former rebel army that were bested by founders of the incumbent military junta still wage war.

The half life of this conflict, humanitarian analysts concede, is unpredictable given the mineral resources that the land being fought over contains, as well as its strategic position across a long expanse of the Chinese border. Both sides recently met over the Chinese border to join peace talks, but the control of natural resources and border trade are hard rewards for such talks to speak over.

Myanmar, however, signed an unprecedented amount of ceasefires with the rebel groups nested in its peripheries in the past year, including one that finally ended conflict with the Karen tribes in the country’s southernmost region, Tanintharyi Division, an area that borders Thailand.

The end to violence in this region has brought hope to many local farmers, who are so unfamiliar to the feeling that they remain skeptical of any lasting peace. The ceasefire here also gave impetus to great hopes of an industrial complex in Dawei, although possibly a failure in its grand design.

A ceasefire agreement was also signed with rebels operating in Shan State, the source of the country’s lucrative opium growing industry. This show of reconciliation has panned out poorly, however. More than 70 skirmishes have broken out between opium traders – now boltholed away higher in the mountains – and the Myanmar military.

Economic empowerment now has to come to the Karen people under their new state of lasting peace to show investors and others in Myanmar that the country is able to put the next foot forward. Unfortunately, the cumbersome Dawei project may not be the best way to prove this.

This is at least one way to keep investors charmed in the meantime, continued bloodshed notwithstanding.

 

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Reading Time: 3 minutes

Myanmar is a country in a state of transition, with one foot through the door of political liberalisation and the other stuck in civil unrest or conflict.

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Myanmar conflictMyanmar is a country in a state of transition, with one foot through the door of political liberalisation and the other stuck in civil unrest or conflict.

The “wait and see” policy adopted by former British Prime Minister Tony Blair has become the attitude de jour for most investors and entrepreneurs that are, despite their thought-out hesitation, still foaming at the mouth scouring for opportunities in the frontier economy.

The maddening violence that has been a prominent feature of Myanmar’s borderlands since British independence has yet to fully subside, leading analysts to foster cautious conclusions about just how long investors will stay sold on the reformist government’s story before being scared off.

Myanmar’s tourism, infrastructure and real estate sectors all remain jeopardised while violence continues along the borders regions, where more than 135 distinct ethnic groups have been identified.

Tourism and real estate in particular could feel the bunt of the blow if the predicted spike in arrivals from tourists and multinationals don’t come to fill up forthcoming hotels and serviced apartments.

Though Myanmar’s commercial and northern hubs of Yangon and Mandalay feel cloistered away from the conflict that seems to perennially spring up around them, tourist destinations have already been affected, and real estate developers are never keen to plow funds into a country that sizzles with economically disrupting tension.

In Arakan State, where ethnic minority Muslim Rohingyas have been the target of violent attacks by Buddhists, “the tourism business in the whole of Mrauk-U town has stopped,” a hotel owner said in the Irrawaddy, speaking of the popular temple site located in the disturbed region.

In Myanmar’s northernmost region, Kachin State remains the site of one of the longest and bloodiest conflicts in Asia, where descendents of the former rebel army that were bested by founders of the incumbent military junta still wage war.

The half life of this conflict, humanitarian analysts concede, is unpredictable given the mineral resources that the land being fought over contains, as well as its strategic position across a long expanse of the Chinese border. Both sides recently met over the Chinese border to join peace talks, but the control of natural resources and border trade are hard rewards for such talks to speak over.

Myanmar, however, signed an unprecedented amount of ceasefires with the rebel groups nested in its peripheries in the past year, including one that finally ended conflict with the Karen tribes in the country’s southernmost region, Tanintharyi Division, an area that borders Thailand.

The end to violence in this region has brought hope to many local farmers, who are so unfamiliar to the feeling that they remain skeptical of any lasting peace. The ceasefire here also gave impetus to great hopes of an industrial complex in Dawei, although possibly a failure in its grand design.

A ceasefire agreement was also signed with rebels operating in Shan State, the source of the country’s lucrative opium growing industry. This show of reconciliation has panned out poorly, however. More than 70 skirmishes have broken out between opium traders – now boltholed away higher in the mountains – and the Myanmar military.

Economic empowerment now has to come to the Karen people under their new state of lasting peace to show investors and others in Myanmar that the country is able to put the next foot forward. Unfortunately, the cumbersome Dawei project may not be the best way to prove this.

This is at least one way to keep investors charmed in the meantime, continued bloodshed notwithstanding.

 

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