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The BurmaNet News: June 10, 1999
- Subject: The BurmaNet News: June 10, 1999
- From: strider@xxxxxxxxxxx
- Date: Thu, 10 Jun 1999 07:53:00
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"Appropriate Information Technologies, Practical Strategies"
The BurmaNet News: June 10, 1999
SHRF: EXTORTION FOR NAM HAANG DAM IN MURNG-TON
JIR: BURMA CASTS WARY EYE ON CHINA
FAITS AND PROTECTS: INTERVIEW WITH KHIN NYUNT
BKK POST: PA-O MINORITY PEOPLE REVIVE STRUGGLE
KT: KOREA TOUCHES ON MYANMAR'S HUMAN RIGHTS
BKK POST: ILLEGAL TIMBER LINKED TO RANONG HOTEL
SHAN HUMAN RIGHTS FOUNDATION: EXTORTION FOR NAM HAANG DAM IN MURNG-TON
May, 1999 from: <shrf@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
On 27.3.99, SPDC Capt Sein Win from Murng-Sart-based IB49 and some troops
came to Naa Kawng Mu, Murng Haang tract, Murng-Ton township, and told the
village tract headman, Loong Haeng Nying, to collect a list of villagers of
Naa Kawng Mu who did not have rice fields.
The headman then went around the village and notified the villagers who did
not have rice fields to gather at his house in the evening. When the
villagers had gathered at the headman's house at 7:00 a.m., altogether 31
people, Capt Sein Win asked them if they wanted land on which to grow rice
and most of the villagers answered that they did.
Capt Sein Win then told the villagers that if they really wanted rice
fields, the government would build a dam on Nam Haang river so that the
farmers would have water to irrigate and work on their own rice fields in
On 28.3.99. Sein Win ordered the headman to provide 1 labourer from each
house in the village, altogether 85, to clear a spread of land on the
western side of Nam Haang river, about 1/2 mile south of Murng Haang tract.
In the evening, Capt Sein Win again summoned the 31 villagers who did not
have rice fields and asked again who really wanted new rice fields. 24 of
them confirmed that they really wanted them, but 7 declined the offer on
the grounds that they did not have any capital to start with: no money, no
rice to eat during the growing season and no draught-animals to work with.
On 29.3.99, with the help of 15 village elders and leaders, Capt Sein Win
measured and distributed the land, 4 acres each, and explained to the 24
villagers that the government intended to use a budget of 15,000,000 Kyat
for the construction of Nam Haang dam. But before that they would have to
start building the dam in order to show the government as example. To be
able to do that, each of the 24 villagers were required to provide 15,000
Kyat of money in advance and would be reimbursed when the government money
The villagers were really in need of cultivatable land in order to earn a
living and they had no choice but to provide the money. Many of them had to
borrow from their relatives from other places, some even from their
relatives who were working in Fang district in Thailand, to pay.
So far, the money has been paid, without anyone being sure that they would
ever get it back, but the construction of the dam has yet to begin.
JANE'S INTELLIGENCE REVIEW: BURMA CASTS WARY EYE ON CHINA
1 June, 1999 by Anthony Davis
FOR much of the current decade, the entente between China and Burma
(Myanmar) has stood out as one of the most significant developments in the
geopolitics of Southeast Asia. Many countries in the Asian region, not
least India, watched in alarm as the junta in Rangoon abandoned Burma's
traditional neutrality and appeared to embraced a strategic alliance with
China. It has allowed Chinese influence - military, commercial and
political - to extend throughout Burma, into the Bay of Bengal and towards
the approaches to the Straits of Malacca. Indeed, some strategic analysts
have come to view Burma as a virtual Chinese satellite. Far less commented
on, however, has been the recent cooling in the relationship. Wariness in
Rangoon has begun to push the ruling military into attempting to step back
from the embrace of its giant northern neighbour and broaden its strategic
After decades of suspicion, during which Beijing threw its weight behind
the armed insurrection of the Communist Party of Burma (CPB) against
Rangoon, three events in the late 1980s propelled the two states into the
strategic partnership of the 1990s.
First came the ruthless suppression by the Burmese military of the
democracy movement of 1988 and the establishment of the widely reviled
State Law and Order Restoration Council (SLORC) in September of that year.
This was followed in 1989 by the crackdown by the Chinese authorities on
their own democracy movement in Tiananmen Square. The final disintegration
of the Maoist CPB, the last obstacle in the path of improved political and
commercial ties, came at almost exactly the same time. Thus, Rangoon's
SLORC increasingly started to look to the Beijing regime - similarly
authoritarian and embattled by Western criticism and sanctions - for
Internationally, the military aspect of the relationship attracted the most
attention. During 1988-98, Chinese military sales to Rangoon, estimated at
between US$1-2 billion, provided the sinews for Burma's armed forces to
grow from 180,000 to 450,000 men. The sales involved fighter aircraft, main
battle tanks, infantry combat vehicles, artillery, naval vessels and other
items. China was also involved in training Burmese military officers. By
1992 Chinese technicians were building radar installations and upgrading
facilities at various Burmese naval bases (see JIR, March 1998). There was
also significant Chinese investment in Burma's domestic transport
infrastructure. Chinese-funded and -assisted projects included bridges,
dams, roads and ports. There were sales of riverine and coastal vessels, as
well as ocean-going container ships. In 1996, fisheries agreements were
signed that gave up to 300 Chinese trawlers access to Burmese waters and
led to the opening of a joint-venture cold storage facility.
Following a border trade agreement in 1988, border trade duly began to
boom, turning towns such as Ruili and Mandalay into major commercial centers.
The demographic worry
Beginning in 1997, however, concern grew in the upper echelons of the SLORC
over the dangers of excessive dependency on China. There has been
apprehension over the extent to which the regime is seen as actively
facilitating China's increasing presence in Burma, particularly in the
north of the country.
The demographic factor remains ill-quantified and little appreciated beyond
Burma, but promises to become an increasingly troublesome facet of the
broader Sino-Burmese relationship. Since the liberalisation and growth of
cross-border trade, there has been a large influx of Chinese businessmen
and migrant workers into northern cities, in particular Mandalay. Much of
the prime commercial property in the centre of the city as well as new
residential developments on the outskirts are now owned by Chinese
entrepreneurs. In fact, 30-40% of Mandalay's population of around 1.2
million is estimated to be ethnic Chinese.
This growing Chinese presence is not only an urban phenomenon. Following
two years of severe flooding in southern China, large numbers of Chinese
farmers have moved into northern Burma. Accurate statistics do not exist,
but informed sources in Rangoon are in no doubt that the recent influx has
involved hundreds of thousands of migrants. Some estimates run to over one
million in the past two to three years. This virtually unreported
population influx is, as one analyst puts it, "changing the whole
demographic balance in northern Burma". Despite its concern, Rangoon can do
little, as it occurs within and into border zones that it only barely
Kokang District - run by former CPB insurgents (ethnic Chinese) - and areas
of northern Shan State - controlled by the heavily armed United Wa State
Army (UWSA) - are the most affected. Deeply embroiled in the narcotics
trade, both groups are currently in cease-fire arrangements with Rangoon:
precarious pacts on which the stability of the Rangoon regime depends.
Typically, Chinese migrants bribe their way across the border into these
'Special Areas' where they can buy Burmese identity cards from the families
of deceased Burmese citizens. These can later be used to purchase property
in urban areas. In other cases, whole new villages are springing up inside
Burma as Chinese migrants take over cleared hill country and begin growing
The first and most striking indication of a new mood in Rangoon came in
late 1997, shortly after the SLORC was replaced by the State Peace and
Development Council (SPDC). Within days, the new ruling body moved to
institute a new regime for border trade. Against the backdrop of a collapse
in the Burmese kyat currency, the policy was prompted by a widening trade
deficit, the uncontrolled haemorrhaging of natural resources (notably
timber, jade and precious stones) and a perceived need to protect local
consumer goods industries from being swamped by cheap Chinese imports. With
a view to increasing and regulating the inflow of hard currency,
cross-border trade was henceforth to be financed through letters of credit
in US dollars, although the rudimentary banking infrastructure in the
border areas made such a scheme all but unworkable from the outset.
Of all of Burma's neighbours, China was hardest hit. Amid considerable
confusion, Burma imposed bans on the export of certain goods in November
1997. The estimated 250-300 trucks that passed through the Burmese border
town of Muse daily enroute to Lashio and Mandalay shrank to between 10-50.
As a result the Chinese town of Ruili, which owed its prosperity entirely
to the border trade, found itself facing economic collapse. Anger on the
Chinese side was palpable and heavy pressure was exerted on Rangoon to
regularise trade policy.
In early 1998 an official list of restricted items for both export and
import was announced. Despite continuing one-off deals in these products,
the overall impact of the new policy has been a marked drop in the volume
of trade. From an official estimate of $659 million in 1996 and $749
million in 1997, trade with China plummeted to around $400 million in 1998.
Indeed, in the past year, friction over trade policy has entirely
overshadowed the earlier irritant in Sino-Burmese ties: the flow of illicit
narcotics from Burma into China.
Significantly, Rangoon has now also backed away from an earlier much-touted
scheme to open a trade route from Yunnan in China through Burma along the
Irrawady River to the Bay of Bengal. The project envisages building a
container port at the northern Burmese town of Bhamo close to the Chinese
border. Chinese goods could then be shipped down the Irrawady on barges to
the riverine town of Minhla and thence trucked to the Arakan coast and a
projected deep-sea port at Kyaukphyu. Such a link-up would avoid the port
of Rangoon, which has been long plagued by silt and a shallow draft.
It would also give southwest China as a whole a potentially vital outlet
into the Indian Ocean region. As Indian strategic analysts have also noted,
it would also afford China a strategic foothold on the Bay of Bengal.
Rangoon's initial enthusiasm appears to have cooled and negotiations have
been halted since early last year. The development of the Kyaukphyu
deep-sea port identified by the government in 1994 as a key national
infrastructure project has also apparently been shelved.
After the massive spending spree of the early 1990s, military acquisitions
from China have also declined sharply. In the past year, Rangoon has
purchased some main battle tanks and ordered seven China-Pakistan
co-developed Karakorum K-8 jet- trainers. Significantly, however, the junta
has turned down an offer of a credit for military purchases worth $100
million. The decision appears to have been the result of both a
determination to diversify and reduce dependency on China as well as
dissatisfaction with some Chinese systems already in Burma's inventory.
Equally symptomatic of the new prickliness in the Sino-Burmese relationship
is a sharp drop in high-level visits. Last year both SPDC Secretary No 1
Lieutenant-General Khin Nyunt and army chief Chief General Maung Aye
apparently declined invitations to visit Beijing. When Lt Gen Khin Nyunt
finally does travel to Beijing this month (June) he will be the first
ranking junta member to visit the Chinese capital since Maung Aye's visit
in October 1996.
The wariness is not just unilateral. Chinese investments have fared badly
in Burma's economy, which continues to founder amid rising prices for
essentials and an inflation rate now estimated at 70-80% in urban areas.
The Bank of China has reportedly ceased lending to Chinese companies
interested in investing in Burma.
Burma's new alignment
Although relations with China have cooled, ties with other neighbours have
broadened. Since July 1997 Burma has been a member of the Association of
South East Asian Nations (ASEAN). Much to the delight of New Delhi,
relations with India are also improving after a long freeze. New Delhi has
been keen to both minimise China's influence in Burma and at the same time
foster co-operation with Rangoon as a key component in dealing with its own
northeastern insurgents, who frequently take shelter on Burmese soil. Since
1996 India's army-led Border Roads Organisation (BRO) has been upgrading a
110-mile road inside Burma between Tamu and Kaleymyo in Sagaing Division.
In February this year Indian Foreign Secretary K Raghunath visited Rangoon
in the first such visit for five years.
Yet it remains unclear whether Rangoon's efforts to impart greater balance
in its foreign policy will be sustained over the long term; or whether, on
the other hand, continuing economic growth in southwest China and the sheer
extent of Chinese penetration of Burma to date will serve to reinforce
Beijing's predominant influence. What is very clear, however, is that the
honeymoon of the early 1990s is over: from here on in, the relationship
promises to be far more complex with far greater grounds for friction.
FAITS AND PROTECTS: INTERVIEW WITH LT.-GENERAL KHIN NYUNT, SECRETARY-1 OF
THE STATE PEACE AND DEVELOPMENT COUNCIL
April 1999 by Delphine Evmoon
[BurmaNet Editor's Note: Faits and Protects is a magazine published in France]
International and Economic Affairs
1. What is your vision of the foreign policy of your country with ASEAN and
The essence of Myanmar's foreign policy is to develop friendly relations
with all the countries of the world, particularly with its neighbors.
Myanmar therefore joined ASEAN with a view to promote regional peace,
stability and prosperity through cooperation and integration with other
nations of the Southeast Asia On the other hand, China is not only a
neighboring country but also one of the most important trading and economic
partners. We therefore look forward to working together with both ASEAN and
China for mutual benefit in the interests of peace and progress.
2. What do you think about the very strong position of the United States
and the United Kingdom, for the most important, against the Union of Myanmar?
Previously, Myanmar maintained cordial relations with both United States
and United Kingdom. Unfortunately, our relations with these countries have
cooled down after 1988. We believe that it is not our doing since we have
always desired good relations with them, as we are fully aware of their
importance in the world today, We also know that with their cooperation in
terms of development and technical fields, we shall be able to march
towards our goal for progress and modernization at a much more rapid pace.
As such, we have done our best to promote good relations with these
countries. Unfortunately, they have adopted a very negative attitude
against our country because of their own political agenda. As a responsible
Government, we have to place the interests of the country and its people
utmost and we cannot always do as they want or follow their advice' and
suggestions due to the unique circumstances of Myanmar. We hope that both
United States and United Kingdom will realize that we all have the same
aim: to see the emergence of a peaceful, democratic and prosperous Myanmar.
3. And with the position of Europe which is stronger than before against
I would not fully agree with your statement that Europe as a whole has
taken a stronger position against us: There may be some nations that have
adopted a more intransigent attitude but there are also many European
countries who are more flexible and whose positions are more balanced and
4. What do you think about the economical position of France with the Union
Myanmar has always enjoyed cordia1 and friendly relations with France and
the two sides have also benefited from fruitfu1 cooperation in the economic
sphere. It is our belief as well as our hope that France will have a better
understanding and appreciation of the challenges we face and as a friendly
nation, work with us in meeting and overcoming these challenges. We are
also deeply gratified that our economic activities are proceeding
satisfactorily. But we should not be complacent for there exists a huge
potential for our two countries to cooperate with each other for mutual
benefit. Myanmar has the greatest respect for French technology-and
expertise and by combining them with Myanmar's natural resources, it would
prove to be very advantageous for both sides. We therefore would like the
French business circles to visit our country more extensively and see the
potentials for investment.
5. Why, if we want to compare the Union of Myanmar with the Vietnam- two
countries which began to open to foreign investments almost in the same
time-the Union of Myanmar is still late with banks, telecommunications,
aviation systems...? Do you think this problem could come from the way of
how the Government of your country takes the decision?
I do not believe that it is a question of decision-making process since it
has been streamlined as much as possible in terms of investment. Of course,
each country has its own rules, regulations and procedures in keeping with
its conditions. Also, there is the matter of priorities. At the same time,
it is generally recognized that Myanmar has one of the most liberal
investment laws in the region which can be beneficial for the investors.
Therefore, the issue is not internal laws and regulations but because some
western countries have added a political dimension by mixing economics with
1. You could read in the foreign media that some businessmen of the Union
of Myanmar who are involved in the drug trafficking (if you read the
International Narcotic Control Strategy Report of the United States), could
continue to do both activities business and drug trafficking-through clean
companies and with your agreement?
This is one of the false allegations directed against our efforts for the
elimination of narcotic drugs. The United States DEA (Drug Enforcement
Administration) has an office in Yangon and there exists cooperation
between that office and Myanmar anti-narcotics authorities. Moreover,
United States Opium Yield Survey Teams have carried out surveys together
with our people for four times already. So, their drug enforcement people
know how much we are doing in this area. Unfortunately, for political
reasons, people in Washington continue to ignore the unprecedented advances
we have made in the fight to eliminate narcotic drugs. This is an issue we
inherited from our colonial past and which is very complex in nature as it
involves political, economic and social undertones. We are committed to
total elimination of narcotic drugs but there naturally must be a certain
period of time needed to achieve this objective. Moreover, this cannot be
accomplished without the participation of the local communities and their
leaders. Now because of our efforts and the successes attained in winning
over the hearts and minds of the people, the national races leaders have
pledged to eliminate narcotic drugs within a certain time period and we
find them doing their best to fulfil their obligations and promises.
Responsible persons from the western nations had met and discussed with
these people and so they know the situation. You yourself were with me when
we made trip to one such area and you had opportunity to personally
interview the local community leaders. So, there is no truth in this
one-sided and deliberate allegation.
2. Why did you refuse the extradition of Khun Sa to the United States when
Through our own efforts and without the assistance from anyone, we were
able to bring about unconditional surrender of Khun Sa and his Mong Tai
Army. Khun Sa himself made a pledge that he would not be involved with
narcotic drugs in any way and abide the arrangements made by the
Government. As you know, previously we had sacrificed hundreds of lives of
our men each year in our struggle for the elimination of the narcotics
menace. Because of the unconditional surrender of Khun Sa and his men, it
has lightened the duties of the armed forces and made possible for more
effective counter-narcotics measures. So, now that he has totally given up
his involvement in narcotics in his own accord and is living to the
promises given to the Government, there exists no reason to extradite him
to the United States to be tried as a criminal.
1. Why do you refuse to dialogue with Aung San Suu Kyi?
Allow me to inform you about our attitude regarding the process of
dialogue. We regard dialogue not as a single event but as a process
involving several stages. First, there must be initial contact. This will
be followed up by trying to engage each other in discussions in order to
build confidence. Once confidence-building is achieved, then this could
lead to substantive discussions. This is the process we tried to follow
when I initiated discussions on the 1 8th August with U Aung Shwe, who as
you know is the Chairman of the NLD and therefore the most responsible
person of the NLD party. My intention was to build up confidence between
the two sides. The talks went quite well and I was hoping to continue the
process the very next week. However, the NLD and Daw Aung San Suu Kyi began
to insist that there could not be any meeting without the participation of
Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.
Moreover, they also said that my meeting with U Aung Shwe was aimed at
causing splits in their ranks. All these actions on the part of NLD and Daw
Aung San Suu Kyi show that also they keep saying that they want to have a
dialogue with the Government. They are actually not sincere and are not
interested in meaningful and genuine dialogue and are trying to create
obstacles in the path to discussions between the two sides. For example, as
I mentioned, I met with U Aung Shwe on the l 8th August. But their response
was to issue a proclamation calling for the convening of the Parliament on
their own on the 21st August. As such, we can only conclude that they would
like to derail the process of dialogue in spite of all their political
2. Some members of the NLD resigned every day. You could read outside that
it is because the Government forced them with strong pressure on them or on
their family. Could you comment please?
There is no truth in these false allegations. Many of the NLD members had
stated in front of the press and television cameras that they resigned
because they no longer believed in the NLD or its leadership and that they
were doing so voluntarily and without compulsion. Indeed, they explained
that they were fed up with the confrontational stance of the NLD leadership
particularly by Daw Aung San Suu Kyi in trying to convene the Parliament
unilaterally. That is the reason for these people resigning from the NLD
and not from any compulsion from the Government.
1. Because of the universities which are closed, foreign media speak about
"lost generations". What do you think about that?
This misperception came about because the foreign media is not aware about
the true situation in the country, Not all higher institutes are closed and
some post-graduate courses are being held without interruption throughout
this period. Moreover, it may be recalled that last August, examinations
for all university classes were held throughout the nation. The closing of
universities is only temporary and we are trying to re-open them in the
near future. So, there is no problem of a lost generation.
The State Peace and Development Council (S.P.D.C.)
1. The Government began a new Constitution in 1993. When the Constitution
will be finish?
This is a question which has been asked frequently. Because of the special
characteristics of our nation, we are trying to reach consensus in the
National Convention that is drafting the guidelines of the new
Constitution. Myanmar is a nation composed of 135 different national races
and you will appreciate that it can be a very delicate matter especially
when it concerns such topics as sharing of power in the legislative,
executive and judicial branches. As such, a certain time must be allowed
for the divergent interests of various groups to converge. At the same
time, we wish to assure you that the Government has no desire to prolong
this process and once the Constitution is promulgated, the Government will
hand over state power to the constitutional Government.
2. Foreign people think that inside the S.P.D.C. there are two different
branches which are both running to the power: one follows your side and the
other, the side of General Maung Aye, with both two different ways of
thinking. You could read too about the real role of U Ne Win in the
important decisions of the country and the real actual role of the
President of the country, Senior-General Than Shwe, Could you comment please?
This is a myth and a misinformation first spread by expatriate dissident
groups and then picked by the media with the malicious aim of causing
splits or at least give the impression of splits in the S.P.D.C. There is
no substance whatever in these allegations. The members of the S.P.D.C. may
have different responsibilities and different roles, but we are all working
unitedly and as a team under the leadership of our Chairman Senior General
Than Shwe. As for your query on U Ne Win, you must first understand our
Myanmar thinking and tradition. In Myanmar, since the majority of our
population are Buddhists, when we reach an advanced age, we would like to
devote our lives in religion. Therefore, in his case also, he has retired
completely from politics and is now engaged in religious devotion only.
Since he is no longer in political matters, the question of his influence
time this sphere no longer arises.
3. What could you say about the forced enrollment of military people in the
This is misinformation which originates from insurgent sources. Recruitment
in the military in Myanmar is entirely voluntary. There is no forced
enrollment since there are enough young people who wish to serve in the
military because of their patriotism.
4. What about the forced moves of a lot of villages in the country hen a
project of a new construction has to be realized on their area?
Sometimes, there are occasions when people have to be relocated because of
the construction of new projects. This is really a natural phenomenon which
is occurring everywhere in the world. If you are constructing a dam, of
course the villages downstream have to be moved. However, we are doing this
in a systematic way by consulting the villagers beforehand and trying to
make the disruption to their lives as little as possible. We also informed
them about the benefits that they would obtain from the projects.
Therefore, there are no genuine complaints from the villagers who realize
it is they themselves and their communities which will benefit in the long
5. What about the corruption of officials people in the Government?
No country in the world is free from corruption. Although there may be some
instances in the country, they are not endemic or widespread. At the same
time, we are trying our best to eliminate corruption.
6. In some French articles, the name which is given to you is the "Prince
of the darkness". What do you think about this?
I read an article or two that carried the term you mentioned. As you and I
met each other a number of times and you yourself have accompanied me to
various places in the country. I leave it to you to answer the question.
Personally, I would like to think of myself as a servant of the people who
is trying to do his best for the country.
BANGKOK POST: BURMA'S PA-O MINORITY PEOPLE REVIVE INDEPENDENCE STRUGGLE
1 June, 1999
Pa-o minority people revived their campaign for independence from Burma.
Leaders of the Pa-o People's Liberation Organisation from Shan, Kayah and
Karen states gathered opposite Mae Hong Son in mid-May to elect executive
Hkun Okker was elected leader and Hkun Shaw Lu secretary-general, according
to the source. After the election, Pa-o issued an announcement reaffirming
the policy to continue to cooperate with other Burmese minority groups in
their independence struggle against Rangoon.
KOREA TIMES: KOREA TOUCHES ON MYANMAR'S HUMAN RIGHTS
2 June, 1999
Seoul yesterday voiced the hope that Myanmar would improve its human rights
situation and step up cooperation with the international community.
Foreign Affairs-Trade Minister Hong Soon-young made the remarks when he met
Myanmar's Foreign Minister U Win Aung, who is on a three-day official visit
At present, Myanmar's world-renowned democracy fighter Aug San Suu Kyi
remains under virtual house arrest, with the international community
pressing the Myanmar government to grant her freedom.
Following the foreign ministers meeting, the Myanmar minister paid a
courtesy call on President Kim Dae-jung at Chong Wa Dae to exchange views
on matters of mutual concern.
Meanwhile, the Myanmar minister called for an increase in Korean corporate
investment in the Southeast Asian country, which regards Korea as a key
partner for economic cooperation.
Foreign Minister Hong said Korean companies will seek to increase their
investment if Korea's economic situation improves, while noting that
Myanmar should also do its part to offer incentives to foreign investors.
Regarding inter-Korean issues, the Myanmar minister expressed his support
for Seoul's engagement policy toward North Korea.
Myanmar severed diplomatic ties with North Korea in 1983 after North Korean
operatives planted a bomb in a failed attempt to assassinate then-Korean
president Chun Doo-hwan, who was on a visit to Myanmar.
BANGKOK POST: ILLEGAL TIMBER LINKED TO EXTENSION OF RANONG HOTEL
9 June, 1999 by Ekkarat Mukem and Cheewin Sattha
BURMESE TROOPS BEING PAID TO HELP
A huge volume of Burmese logs is being smuggled into Ranong, reportedly for
use in the extension of a large hotel in the southern province, according
to a local customs official.
The official said the logs, owned by a Thai firm, were being hauled across
the border in small lots via the Kra Buri checkpoint before being sent to
five sawmills by an influential Thai businessman who says the timber would
be used in the extension of a hotel in Ranong.
The smuggling was being handled with the aid of Burmese troops because the
Thai businessman enjoyed close ties with high-ranking Burmese military
officers, according to the official.
"More logs are being smuggled in because patrol operations by Burmese
government troops are suspended during the rainy season. This makes it more
convenient for log traders to bring timber into Thailand. Burmese soldiers
as well as many Thai officials have been paid to help," the official said.
A Thai company, with a concession to build a 183km-long road in Burma from
Hill 491 near the border to Kawthaung opposite Ranong, was reportedly
permitted by Rangoon to cut trees along the new route. At least 12,000
Burmese logs were expected to be smuggled into Thailand by the firm.
The Fourth Army is seeking information on the log smuggling. The source
said an initial investigation determined the bulk of the logs came from
Burma, but there were concerns some of the logs might have been felled in
Meanwhile in Mae Hong Son, the provincial chamber of commerce chairman has
voiced his support for a bid by four Thai firms to import 1.5 million cubic
metres of Burmese logs.
Poonsal Sunthornpanichkij said both the government and the province would
benefit from the collection of import tariffs.
But he added the four firms - Phon Phana, SA Pharmaceutical, B&F Goodrich
and Songkhroh Sahai Ruan Rop Kaolee - must first prove the logs originated
in Burmese forests.