The ethnic populations have suffered the most as a result of long-standing hostilities with the central government. They have been perceived as enemies of the state and second class citizens. The effects of a protracted war and neglect by the central government have left many ethnic areas in a dire situation.
In particular, the Myanmar Army’s “4 cuts policy” that was targeted against resistance groups and civilians from 1996-98, has caused severe damage to the economy in areas within, and outside, of the conflict zone.
The 4 cuts policy included:
Until today, areas of the country with high ethnic density populations remain the most impoverished in the country. Lack of communication and understanding is also a major reason that deep ethnic cleavages and distrust still exist between the different nationalities and the majority Burman population.
Profile of ethnic grievances:
– ethnic states are found to have the highest percentage of people living in poverty: Chin state (73%), Rakhine state (44%) and Shan state (33%)29
– under development in ethnic areas e.g. no electricity, proper roads and other basic infrastructure
– land confiscation and forced relocation
– unfair distribution of revenue from natural resources
– literacy levels are the lowest in ethnic states, according to 2010 statistics: Shan state (75% – eastern Shan state 52.2%), Rakhine state (75.1%), Kayah state (84.7), Kachin state (87.2%), Chin state (87.4%), Kayin state (89%)30
– the incidence of drug abuse is highest among ethnic youth, especially in Kachin and Shan states – some claim that it is a deliberate strategy by the government to weaken the ethnic youth and prevent them from joining insurgencies
– lack of social and cultural rights: currently many ethnic groups do not have the right to learn or teach in their own language, and there is no protection for traditional cultural practices or heritage sites
– environmental and social impact of development projects:
– inequality in regards to political rights
– higher incidences of human rights violations (forced labor, arbitrary taxation, land confiscation, racial and religious discrimination)