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Letpadaung mine, social movements and the role of the NLD

Today Chan Sze Wan Debby from University of Hong Kong talks about her research on social movements in Myanmar. __________

My research is on social movements related to Chinese investment in Myanmar during the Thein Sein administration - with the campaign against the Letpadaung Copper Mine Campaign as one of my case studies. I am interested to know under what circumstances the government would change its preferences over committed Chinese investment projects. Amid my fieldwork, it is too early to draw conclusion for my research. However, I would like to share my observation about National League for Democracy’s role in social movement in Burma.

1. Recently, the NLD has launched a donation programme for underprivileged students though it constantly distances itself from the civil society in the country. For a number of good reasons, the NLD does not want to jeopardize “national reconciliation” in the reform period. The leading opposition tends to distance itself from civil society groups, other than groups that advocate on constitutional change.

2. Having said that, social activists still respect the NLD a lot. When it comes to some controversial issues, activists' reverence for the NLD deserves attention.

3. In the anti-Letpadaung Copper Mine Campaign, I am amazed about the unity of the villagers and the leadership of the movement in anti-Letpadaung Copper Mine campaign before the first phase of the campaign.

4. Soon after the engagement of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi in the crisis, villagers and activists in support of the movement split immediately. It is believed that some villagers and activists were convinced by the Lady’s pragmatic approach to the controversy. Nevertheless, some of my interviewees said they did not agree with the project but refrain from protesting against it out of the respect to the Lady.

5. I am interested in the interaction between civil society groups and the government after the NLD takes the office. Maybe it would be my next project.

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If you would like more information on Debby's work her Academia profile is here

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