Tuesday, November 06, 2012

The World Bank returns to Myanmar

After many years of military rule, Myanmar is now transitioning to a civilian led government. When Myanmar President Thein Sein showed up at the U. N. General Assembly in September, the U. S. granted the World Bank permission to begin dealing with the country. The Bank plans on studying the country's economy for 18 months before making suggestions to the leadership. They hope the suggestions will improve the private workforce, regulation and the country's central bank. The World Bank might also issue new loans to the Myanmar.

Human rights observers warn that the World Bank should not dive in too aggressively, just in case the military junta tries to resume control. They also say that there are still human rights abuses occurring under the current leadership.

In this snippet, Inter Press Service writer Carey Biron focuses on the abuse. 
Civil society observers in and out of Myanmar have increasingly been warning donors against being overeager in re-engaging with the country. A primary worry here is that offering significant concessions would weaken the international community’s ability to react punitively should the Myanmar government begin to renege on the current reforms process.
Many thus see the World Bank’s interim strategy as an important test case.
“The World Bank’s re-engagement plan for Burma looks naive on human rights,” Jessica Evans, a researcher with the Washington office of Human Rights Watch, a watchdog, told IPS. ”The strategy celebrates Burma’s steps toward reform while closing its eyes to the ongoing repression.”
Indeed, recent weeks have publicly underlined the Myanmar government’s still problematic relationship with the country’s many ethnic communities. Most notably, sectarian violence has again flared up in the western state of Rakhine (Arakan) involving the Muslim minority Rohingya, a long oppressed group that has been systematically denied citizenship since the early 1980s.
In addition, there are ongoing allegations of the arrest and prosecution of peaceful protestors, alongside flagrant abuses in conflict zones where government forces have battled armed ethnic minorities for decades.
The recommendations also noted that the bank “does not have non-discrimination safeguards, but considering the recent inter-ethnic violence in Arakan State and history of ethnic conflict and discrimination generally, this is of crucial importance for all projects in Burma”.
Evans noted, “A principled donor should offer a frank, honest assessment of the climate for development, and identify the urgent changes that are still needed, but the World Bank instead suffers from a rose-tinted view on human rights in Burma.”
In a detailed set of recommendations sent to the World Bank in September, Human Rights Watch called on the institution to “require that proposed projects in Burma go forward only after specific human rights safeguards have been rigorously implemented”.

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