Energy, Governance and Security in Thailand and Myanmar (Burma): A Critical Approach to Environmental Politics in the South.

AuthorThuzar, Moe

Energy, Governance and Security in Thailand and Myanmar (Burma): A Critical Approach to Environmental Politics in the South, by Adam Simpson. 2nd ed. Copenhagen: NIAS Press, 2017. Pp. 336.

Since its publication in 2014 and subsequent revision and update in 2017, the interdisciplinary relevance of Adam Simpson's work is demonstrated by the multiple perspectives through which his research findings have been reviewed and commented upon. Though primarily an exercise researching the two-way flow of information and interactions that inform decisions in environment and energy projects, the value of Simpson's work lies in highlighting the complex relationships between voice and accountability issues surrounding investments in extractive industries in Thailand and Myanmar. In doing so, the author also highlights the agency of activists in environmental governance. The phrase "activist environmental governance" will be associated with Simpson in future analyses of democracy and development in the South.

Simpson's choice of Thailand and Myanmar is apt. The two countries had an almost looking-glass situation regarding the space available to local activist movements for "political dissent and debate" (p. 2), with more dynamic domestic environment movement in Thailand providing the main voice for accountability of the country's transnational energy project, especially in neighbouring Myanmar. Myanmar activists, whose voice was suppressed under a military regime until 2011, relied mainly on transnational modes of environmental governance, with participation and input from exiled activists providing the local contextual knowledge for such movements. This was not always a straightforward path. Thailand's competitive authoritarian tendencies under the Thaksin regime (pp. 65-73) saw the environment as political (p. 72), and nationalist rhetoric against foreign interventions provided a cover for cracking down on activists opposing major development projects. Thus, state sensitivity to activism has prevented substantial advocacy to mitigate the social and environmental effects of infrastructure projects, especially in the energy sector. A strong symbiosis exists between business interests and political elites (p. 91), converging interests among the governments of the day, too.

These are some of Simpson's key messages. Another is on the geopolitical connotations of outsourcing energy extraction (and the attendant social and environmental consequences) to states...

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