The Rape of Burma

Once the richest country in Southeast Asia, Burma today is mired in deep poverty. One reason is that the junta uses the country's dual exchange rate system to siphon off nearly all of its growing revenues from natural gas.

SYDNEY – Burma, once the richest country in Southeast Asia, today is mired in deep poverty. Its economy ruined by nearly 50 years of economic mismanagement under military rule, the only international rankings that it tops are those for most corrupt nation, world’s worst health system, and lowest spending on education – “accolades” that are sadly indicative of its people’s suffering.

And yet, over the last few years Burma has also emerged as a significant producer of energy in Southeast Asia. Thanks to large fields of recoverable natural gas located offshore, Burma now earns substantial foreign exchange revenues.

At present, most of these revenues ($1-1.5 billion per year, depending on price fluctuations) come from Thailand. Gas from Burma, piped onshore from the Gulf of Martaban, generates around 20% of Bangkok’s electricity supply.

To continue reading, please log in or enter your email address.

To read this article from our archive, please log in or register now. After entering your email, you'll have access to two free articles every month. For unlimited access to Project Syndicate, subscribe now.


By proceeding, you agree to our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy, which describes the personal data we collect and how we use it.

Log in;

Cookies and Privacy

We use cookies to improve your experience on our website. To find out more, read our updated cookie policy and privacy policy.