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A petition campaign has been launched in Arakan state calling for an equitable distribution of benefits from the region’s natural resources.
Led by the Rakhine Nationalities Development Party (RNDP) and local civil society groups, the campaign launched across the state and in Rangoon on Sunday with a call to the public to add their names to petitions.
Speaking to DVB, RNDP representative Khine Pyi Soe said they launched billboards in 17 townships within Arakan State and held public meetings at which they called for profits from various projects in the region to be distributed among the local population.
He said the goals of the campaign are: to achieve the right for the local Arakanese population to manage and control their natural resources; for state residents to obtain a share of the profits; to combat poverty and mange a job creation program with dividends from the projects; to ensure a 24-hour electricity supply.
“Arakan State is second poorest State in Burma,” said Khine Pyi Soe. “We have no factories, industry or major businesses. We only have agriculture and fishing as livelihoods. We need to be able to receive an income from the abundant natural resources in the state. We believe we have that right.”
Arakan State is rich in natural gas. The controversial Shwe Gas Project which is soon due to begin transferring gas and later oil from the Bay of Bengal to China has its base in Kyaukphyu in Arakan state.
“The gas pipeline will be able to carry 500 million cubic feet of natural gas to China every day. However it is regrettable that Burma will only receive 100 million cubic feet of that amount and, of that, Arakan state just 20 million cubic feet.”
The Arakanese are one of many ethnic minorities that have repeatedly urged the central government to allot income from business projects exploiting natural resource to help develop the local area. Last year the Upper House of Parliament agreed to discuss an RNDP proposal on the issue.