World recession may force closure of Burma’s gem mines
With demand already affected by the USA’s 2007 ban on the import of rubies and jades mined in Burma, the industry itself may be forced to close down due a dramatic drop in orders for the gems since the beginning of the world economic downturn combined with plummeting prices.
Precious stones are Burma’s third largest export sector, and provide vast sums of money for the Junta, with the state-owned Myanmar Economic Holdings, (MOH), and Myanmar Economic Corporation, (MEC), dominating the sector. MEC has recently closed down all its operations.
Both rubies and jade are mined in Burma’s northern regions, with estimates of as much as 90% of world ruby production originating in the area. Some minefields are reported to have already closed down, with others laying off 90% of their workers. Precious stones mined in Burma are sold in rough form (often on the black market which thrives along the Thai/Burmese border), mainly to China and Thailand, where they are cut, polished and processed for sale, mostly to Europe. According to a gem dealer, a parcel of jade of variable quality would usually fetch around $1,400; the price has now dropped to below $140.
Around 500,000 workers are estimated to have been employed in the industry, with the largest mining area, Mineshu, employing at least 100,000, most of whom have now been laid off. If the fall in demand and prices continues into 2010, it seems possible that the entire industry will cease to exist, with disastrous effects on Burma’s already shaky economy.
Myanmar has always been a fascinating country that Sok Phoeuk had wanted to
visit. However, it was not the fascination that brought him to Myanmar. With over 25
years of experience in training and disaster risk management, it was a noble calling
for Sok when Cyclone Nargis struck Myanmar in May 2008 and he became an
ASEAN Hub Officer there, hoping to share his skills and knowledge as well as to
learn more about ASEAN.
Joseph and Anggiet, coming from Indonesia, however, saw the ASEAN Hub Officer
position as a new challenge that they would like to take up because, according to
Joseph, “Indonesia is a “supermarket” for natural disasters but it has never been
struck by a cyclone”.
LAY YWAR, 1 April 2009 (IRIN) – Food insecurity is nothing new for many Rohingya in northern Rakhine State, most of whom live in abject poverty, but this year is particularly bad.
Of the state’s almost one million inhabitants, about 85 percent are Rohingya, an ethnic, linguistic and religious minority that are de jure stateless in line with the country’s laws. According to Human Rights Watch (HRW), they are denied citizenship and subject to strict restrictions on movement, employment and religious freedoms.
Much of the food shortage can be attributed to a poor agricultural season in 2007 and 2008, rising food and agricultural inputs, and declining employment opportunities for the landless poor.
The price of rice, a staple, was 75 percent higher in June 2008 against 2007, prompting many Rohingya families to forgo one meal a day.
“Our recent field reports indicate a similar, if not worse, situation as regards household food insecurity in the early months of this year, largely due to growing levels of debt, a reduced harvest in the main 2008-2009 agricultural season, coupled with declining opportunities for wage labour,” Chris Kay, country director of the UN World Food Programme (WFP), told IRIN in Yangon, the former Burmese capital. Continue reading “MYANMAR: Rohingya face rising food insecurity(IRIN)”
By THE IRRAWADDY
As the 2010 election approaches, Burma’s ethnic armies are becoming restless
OVER the past decade, a patchwork of ceasefire agreements, if not actual peace, has reigned over most of Burma’s ethnic hinterland. Of the many ethnic insurgent armies that once battled the Burmese regime, only a handful are still waging active military campaigns. The rest remain armed, but have shown little appetite for renewed fighting—so far.
With an election planned for sometime next year, however, the status quo is looking increasingly unsustainable. The junta is pushing its erstwhile adversaries to form parties and field candidates, and while some have unenthusiastically complied, others have begun to chafe at the persistent pressure.
To the north, near Burma’s border with China, the Kachin, the Kokang and the Wa have all responded very differently to the regime’s demands. The Kachin have formed a proxy party to contest the election, while the Kokang have said thanks, but no thanks—managing, somehow, not to rile the generals in Naypyidaw.
The Wa, on the other hand, have been more openly resistant to the regime’s plans to use the election to end hostilities permanently.
The United Wa State Army, with 20,000 troops under its command, was formed 20 years ago out of the ashes of the Burman-dominated Communist Party of Burma. Soon after, it signed a ceasefire deal with then-intelligence chief Gen Khin Nyunt, who was ousted in 2004. Since then, relations with the Burmese junta have been strained. Continue reading “To Fight or Not to Fight”
Thanks to Arzarni
Myanmar state media joins US official’s trip for the first time
The trip was led Larry Dinger, the deputy chief of mission, and included officials from the World Food Programme. The donated rice was imported from the US, sources said.
The secretive military junta appeared to be signalling a shift toward willingness to cooperate on some level. One retired diplomat noted that state media has not been with US embassy officials for almost 20 years.
Stephen Blake, director of the US State Department’s Mainland Southeast Asia Office, visited Myanmar last week and met with senior government officials including Foreign Minister Nyan Win.
The US imposed sanctions on Myanmar in 1988 after the regime launched a brutal crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators that left an estimated 3,000 people dead.
It has not posted a full ambassador to Myanmar for several years.
There have been signs that US President Barack Obama may reexamine US policy towards Myanmar in light of the failure of sanctions and tough talk to significantly influence the ruling junta’s policies over the past two decades.
US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton during her visit to Indonesia last month said the US was conducting a review of its foreign policy towards Myanmar.
The Burmese military government is reportedly urging potential pro-junta candidates, particularly members of the Union Solidarity and Development Association (USDA), to nurture good public relations ahead of the 2010 general election.
According to sources close to the USDA, high ranking officials are issuing guidelines telling junta supporters considering standing in the election to develop good relations with the electorate. They should “act in a friendly way with the people, even with opponents,” one source said.
Since the end of 2008, the USDA has been selecting possible election candidates from among its members and leading members of the community.
The USDA has also been working on its own public image by undertaking construction projects in many communities across the country.
This week, the Union of Myanmar Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry (UMFCCI) changed its regulation barring members from involvement in politics.
Continue reading “Pro-junta Election Candidates Told to Nurture Good Public Relations”
ICT is investigating Thaksin’s video link signal
The Information and Communication Technology Minister reveals today, (April 1st) that it is currently in the middle of an investigation regarding former PM Thaksin Shinawatra’s video link signal.
Today (April 1st), Second Lieutenant Ranongruk Suwunchwee, an Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Minister stated that the signal of the video link used by former PM Thaksin Shinawatra is currently undergoing investigation in order to find out whether the signal was sent from overseas or within the Kingdom. She stated that if the signal was sent within Thailand, and if the contents of his speeches had an impact on national security, the Ministry will be able to file charges against the responsible persons under the nation’s legal system. The Minister added that prosecution will have to be based on the content of his speech.
However, if the signal is found to be sent from abroad, further investigation must lead to answers regarding who the signal transmitter was and whether it was a ground signal or not. According to Second Lieutenant Ranongruk, the investigation should yield some results within this week.
by Ko Maw
Tuesday, 31 March 2009 00:00
After this debate, the monks from middle-Burma sat together again to discuss the establishing of a monks group called the ‘Young Monks Union’ in keeping with the instruction given by U Gambira. After the meeting, we could successfully establish a regional group called ‘Young Monks Union’ (Middle-Burma) with the consent given by the majority of the monks in our region.
In this organization, the following monks were given positions as is mentioned against their names:
1. U Eithiriya (Jaung Jaung) – General In-charge (currently being held in prison)
2. U Wayamathara – Joint-In-charge (writer of this article)
3. U Thilananda – Organization Work In-charge
4. U Wimala – Organization Work In-charge
5. U Than Wara – Organization Work In-charge
6. U Einda Sara – Finance In-charge
7. U Khay Mika – Communication In-charge
8. Shin Way Lu Riya – Yenanchaung and three other monks from Taungdwingyi and Nyaug Oo totaling 11 monks could successfully establish this regional monk union on 11 February 2007 at about 7 p.m. But we could not include some monks from Pakokku and Salin Townships in the regional monk union as we could not establish contact with them and hold discussion with them yet. So we could nominate some of them only for future expansion of our regional body.
After establishing the regional monk body, U Eithririya suggested the launch of reciting Metta Sutra and Metta Bawana campaign as our first movement at pagodas in our respective townships on every full moon day and full waning day. I agreed with him and said to him, “OK, go ahead”. Continue reading “Pre-saffron revolution period experiences (Part 3)”