Washington International Law Journal


Rachel E. Ryon


Burma is hailed as a great democratic success story: a once-rogue nation holding elections, releasing political prisoners, and promising human rights reforms. The people elected to Parliament Aung San Suu Kyi, the leader of the democratic movement who was under house arrest for more than twenty years. The world responded with applause and open pocketbooks. In April of 2012, Ban Ki-moon, Secretary General of the United Nations, asked members to lift their sanctions on the formerly “rogue” nation and begin investing. But for a resource-rich country with a long track record of corruption, this flood of foreign investment will likely provide more opportunities for human rights violations and environmental destruction. Burma’s Parliament recently revised the country’s foreign investment law to provide guidelines for its new investors. Given Burma’s relatively new Constitution and brand new foreign investment law, what will the legal landscape regarding the protection of human rights and the environment look like during this time of transition and economic acceleration? Foreign investors should agree to undertake projects only where impact benefit agreements are successfully negotiated, proceed cautiously in Burma’s historically corrupt oil and gas industry, and engage in non-financial reporting in order to ensure compliance with international human rights and environmental standards.

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