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This report by EarthRights International (ERI) and Karen Environmental and Social Action Network (KESAN) illustrates how trade in timber, gems, and gold is financing violent conflict, including widespread and gross human rights violations and environmental destruction, in Burma. Although trade in these “conflict goods” accounts for a small percentage of the total global trade, it severely compromises human security and undermines socio-economic development, not only in Burma, but throughout the region.

Capitalizing on Conflict: How Logging and Mining Contribute to Environmental Destruction in Burma is based on rare field surveys, in-depth interviews and visual documentation from recent fact-finding trips to cease-fire and conflict zones inside the country.

ERI and KESAN researchers found that as a consequence of growing military control and industrialization in cease-fire areas, affected communities are subject to a variety of abuses that result in deterioration of the environment and traditional cultural practices. Investigators found evidence of widespread violations such as forced relocation and forced labor. The researchers interviewed local people so desperate for income they are compelled to participate in exploitation of local natural resources. “I had to pay so many taxes that I had to start logging to survive” says one Karen man interviewed for the report.

Capitalizing on Conflict presents two specific case studies of increased extractive activities, logging and mining in particular, which have caused severe environmental and social damages. Both of the case studies show how cease-fire agreements have enabled the military regime to enter into lucrative business activities in volatile conflict zones. Cease-fire agreements have dramatically expanded the area where businesses operate.