Where for the othercountries in Southeast Asia covered so far in this series sea level rise is a more recent concern, in Thailand, it has long been cited as an important factor behind the oft-discussed “sinking” of its capital, Bangkok. Local data from around the country has shown an increase in sea level of about 5 mm in the last 25 years, a rise that has been accompanied by increased incidents of cyclones, flooding, and deadly storm surges. The country’s devastating 2011 floods, for example, not only impacted over 1.69 million hectares of land, resulting in economic losses of over $2 billion — it also caused global industrial production to decline by 2.5%, as seven major industrial parks and the 800+ companies therein (largely producing automobile parts and electronics) were inundated.
On December 12, 2016, PISA hosted Myanmar Ambassador Aung Lynn at The George Washington University’s Elliott School of International Affairs as part of our PISA-ASEAN Southeast Asia Roundtable Series and the Elliott School’s Ambassador Forum Series. He gave an address entitled “The New Myanmar,” followed by a question and answer session with GW students, faculty, and non-GW affiliates from the media, civil society, and more.
You can read a full transcript of his remarks and the following Q&A below the cut, or download it here.
A country composed of 14 administrative states and more than 135 different ethnic groups, Myanmar currently lags behind its Southeast Asian counterparts in many different aspects of development (according to 2014 data gathered by the United Nations Development Program). After decades of political turmoil, Myanmar saw a push towards democracy when the National League for Democracy, led by Aung San Suu Kyi, won the 2015 elections by a landslide. The election results proved to be a victory for Myanmar, but after the Cold War-era proliferation of communism, years of ideological battles, and an exploding opium and heroin trade, the new Burmese government faces many obstacles on the path to catching up to its ASEAN neighbors.
As in Vietnam, Indonesia – the biggest economy in Southeast Asia – is growing at a steady pace year after year, with 15% of its GDP resting on the back of its agricultural sector. In fact, over 44% of Indonesian laborers are employed in this sector, and whether in rice production or fishing, all are feeling the impact of climate change — including creeping sea level rise.
As one of the fastest-growing markets in the world, Vietnam – with a growth rate of about 7 percent this past year – has witnessed remarkable improvements in its total gross domestic product (GDP), industrial output, and per capita income (from $260 in 1995 to $1685 in 2015) in the last few decades. Moreover, where Vietnam had previously been a net importer of rice, it is now the second largest exporter in the world after Thailand, with two-thirds of its rural labor employed in rice production.
As the battle against communism raged in Vietnam, a lesser-known civil war between the Pathet Lao – a communist movement – and the Royal Lao Government ravaged Laos. The conflict in Vietnam spilled over into Laos as a result of the establishment of the Ho Chi Minh Trail in 1959 and the partnership between the Pathet Lao and North Vietnamese soldiers. In Northern Laos, North Vietnamese forces established a military effort in order to support the Pathet Lao in their attempts to ignite internal rebellion. Seeing the North Vietnamese forces supporting the proliferation of communism into Laos, the United States Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) decided to take action by training Laotian tribesmen to create a guerilla force to fight back against the Pathet Lao.
In February 2013 Partnerships for International Strategies in Asia (PISA) collaborated with Yangon based NGO, ALARM, to offer a week long pre-training program for 45 mid-level government officials from Burma’s line ministries with portfolios most likely to be impacted by climate change. The Myanmar Leadership Institute on Climate Change (MLICC) was designed to build capacity at the national level on mainstreaming climate change into development policies. The objective of the pre-training was to introduce the officials to what PISA terms, climate-wise development (CWD). CWD seeks the advancement of the community in tandem with responsible management of natural resources, investment in human capacity, and good governance. This methodology seeks to mitigate the tension inherent in development policies that seek rapid economic gain and the need for longer-term environmental and political stability.