US, Europe demand fuels illegal China-Myanmar timber trade

BANGKOK, Oct 21 (Reuters) – The United States may have imported $3.8 billion of illegal timber products from China last year, much of it likely smuggled from neighbouring Myanmar, where illegal logging is rapidly destroying forests, a report showed.

China and Myanmar have made progress in tackling illegal logging but more must be done to stamp out corruption fuelling the trade, London-based Global Witness, an environmental watchdog, said in a report on Wednesday.

China cut its imports of logs and sawn wood from its neighbour by 70 percent between 2005 and 2008, but trade was still thriving due to bribery, falsified documents and poor law enforcement, the report said.

The group said illegal logging was still causing rapid destruction of Myanmar’s northeastern forests, with 270,000 cubic metres (9.5 million cubic ft) of logs and 170,000 cubic metres of sawn timber, most of which was illegal, smuggled into China’s Kunming province last year.

The report estimated the United States, Japan, Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Canada and Russia were the chief export destinations of the timber, mostly as wooden furniture.

Government crackdowns, it said, had a “significant positive impact” on the flow of wood into China, which is responsible for 10 percent of global trade in illegal timber.

“But (China and Myanmar) should do more to close down the remaining industry, which is almost wholly reliant on the illegal timber supply from Burma,” it said, referring to Myanmar’s former name.

Global Witness, which seeks to tackle illegal trade and exploitation of natural resources, said one truck carrying 15 tonnes (tons) of illegal logs crossed the China-Myanmar border every seven minutes in 2005.

However, from 2006 to now, very few were to be seen, although official border checkpoints were still being bypassed and truckers were choosing to transport by night to avoid detection, it said.

Shan Workers Petition Supreme Court of Thailand to Overturn Discriminatory and Illegal SSO Policy Denying Migrant Access to Work Accident Compensation Funds

Wed, 21/10/2009 – 08:56
Human Rights and Development Foundation
On 20 October 2009, Nang Noom Mae Seng, a disabled migrant work accident victim, and two other Shan migrants petitioned the Supreme Court of Thailand to overturn a Social Security Office’s (SSO) circular (RS 0711/W751, issued on 25th October 2001) they claim discriminates against over 2 million migrant workers in Thailand.

The circular has negative implications especially for those migrants from Burma working in dangerous and risky workplaces where they frequently experience accidents. As a result of this SSO circular, migrant work accident victims are denied access to work accident compensation from the Workmen’s Compensation Fund (WCF). The three workers from Burma claim the circular is illegal, in breach of the Thai Constitution’s non-discrimination provisions and have therefore requested the Supreme Court to affirm their right to access the WCF.

On the 21st September 2009, Region 5 Labour Court threw out this case on the basis Nang Noom’s case has, since August 2008, been pending consideration in the Supreme Court and she cannot prosecute a second case. Additionally, the court ruled the other two migrants involved in the case had no authority to petition the court.

Somchai Homlaor, HRDF’s Secretary General, today said: “The important issue in this petition, which contrasts from Nang Noom’s existing case pending in the Supreme Court, is that in this case Nang Noom is requesting the Supreme Court to overturn the SSO’s discriminatory and illegal circular notice, and not as in the previous case, that the WCF directly pay her work accident compensation.” Continue reading “Shan Workers Petition Supreme Court of Thailand to Overturn Discriminatory and Illegal SSO Policy Denying Migrant Access to Work Accident Compensation Funds”

Commander Level Flag Meeting for Burma and Bangladesh to Begin Today

News – Narinjara News
WEDNESDAY, 21 OCTOBER 2009 10:46

By Takaloo, Cox’s Bazar: The border guard forces of Bangladesh and Burma will hold a flag meeting on Wednesday in the Burmese border town of Maungdaw with the aim of easing tension between the two countries, according to a media report.

“We have agreed with Nasaka to sit on the current situation along the border on the coming 21st of October,” Lt. Colonel Mozammal of Bangladesh Rifles Battalion 42 stationed in Teknaf told a local daily in Cox’s Bazaar.

He added that the meeting was expected to reduce current border tension and will help bring peace and stability along the border between the two countries.

The two forces already met on the issues last week but the meeting ended without reaching any agreements.

Tension along the Burma-Bangladesh border has escalated as Burma has been mobilizing troops in the area as it restarted construction of a barb-wire fence along the border line earlier this month.

According to the Bangladesh military sources, Bangladesh has also reinforced deployments of border guard paramilitary troops along the 320-kilometer border with Burma, in order to thwart any potential incursion by the Burmese troops.

Burmese Foreign Minister Nyan Win, however, rejected speculation about the troop deployments, calling it a “routine exercise” at a meeting with Bangladesh counterpart Dipu Moni during an interval of the Asia Cooperation Dialogue ministerial meeting in Colombo last Friday.

According to border sources, border guard forces in both countries are still on red-alert and arrests of nationals on the wrong side of the border line are reportedly increasing on both sides.

Food shortage haunts over 250 displaced Karen

News – KIC
WEDNESDAY, 21 OCTOBER 2009 13:17

Acute shortage of food is staring over 250 displaced Karen people from Pha Pun region, northern Karen State in the face, sources in the region said.

The displaced Karen people are from Hkalel Sekho, Haw Thuu Pu and Lel Hkalawt village under Mae Mue sub-tract, in Buu Tho Township. All the villagers fled to the jungle since October 6 because they were threatened by the Kasaw War battalion and Maung Chit and Tin Win from the headquarter-escort battalion of DKBA 666 Brigade.

According to a Pha Pun local, the villagers could not carry sufficient stocks of rice and food leading to food shortage now.

“The DKBA is still active in the area and there are a total of 256 people hiding in the jungle. There are 38 houses in the village. They could not carry sufficient food, while fleeing and are afraid to go back to get it. DKBA soldiers have looted food and rice belonging to the villagers,” a local told KIC.

Besides, “DKBA battalions threaten and force villagers to do all kinds of work for them. To make matters dangerous, they lay landmines around the village. So we are afraid to live in the village,” he added.

Since the Burmese Army arrived in Pha Pun district in 1997, locals had to relocate from one place to another. Eventually they became homeless leading to perennial food shortage. Besides, there has been increased deployment of soldiers and more military operations in the region. This in turn has led to more and more people being displaced year after year.

In 2009, the Burmese Army and DKBA forces deployed more troops in the area. The soldiers have been killing and committing human rights abuses among locals. It’s learnt that there are over 7,000 displaced Karen refugees in Buu Tho and Lu Thaw Township, in Pha Pun district.

In a major development the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) has said it is willing to surrender its weapons, without the need to transform to Border Guard Force (BGF), if the junta respects and accepts the spirit of the Panglong Agreement.

Written by KNG
Wednesday, 21 October 2009 16:10
In a major development the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) has said it is willing to surrender its weapons, without the need to transform to Border Guard Force (BGF), if the junta respects and accepts the spirit of the Panglong Agreement.

The Kachin Independence Organization (KIO), the last remaining ethnic Kachin armed group, which rejected the Burmese junta-proposed conversion to the BGF has communicated this demand to the regime supremo Snr-Gen Than Shwe, said KIO sources. Than Shwe is the sole arbitrator in the junta.

The KIO has written to Than Shwe that the KIO will surrender its weapons without the necessity of transforming to BGF, if the junta respects and accepts the spirit of the Panglong Agreement which was jointly signed on February 12, 1947 by Burman leader Gen Aung San and ethnic leaders— of Kachin, Chin and Shan states for the high hope of genuine multi-ethnic Union of Burma.
061309-kia-flag According to the Panglong Agreement, the Union of Burma received independence from the British in January 4, 1948. The Panglong Agreement was based on equal rights between the majority Burman and ethnics, who had the right to rule their own states and secession rights from the Union was also authorized to the ethnics. Continue reading “In a major development the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) has said it is willing to surrender its weapons, without the need to transform to Border Guard Force (BGF), if the junta respects and accepts the spirit of the Panglong Agreement.”

USDA implements new “home-town” strategy in preparation for 2010 elections

Wed 21 Oct 2009, Asah
Officers of the Union Solidarity and Development Association (USDA) who serve the organization in Karen State have been ordered back to their home villages in order to organize on behalf of Burma’s military government for the upcoming 2010 elections.

A source in Karen State who works closely with the USDA reported to IMNA that for the last 20 days USDA officers from Karen State have been leaving their offices in the cities of Karen State, and are returning to their native villages in Karen State and Mon State. The orders for this mass exodus reportedly came directly from the Burmese military government.

“If USDA members organize in their home-towns, first of all it’s easier to organize the residents of that town, because he knows the town. Also the residents will believe what the USDA member says [if he is from the village]. The USDA is very wise to use this method. The USDA members who are organizing their home towns will be enthusiastic about the government, because the government is giving them authority,” he added.

This USDA insider from Karen State claims that USDA members have gone back to their home villages in both Karen State and Mon State, these villages include Hpa-an, Hlaingbwe, Kyainnseikyi in Karen State and Chaung zone township (Belukyun) in Mon State.

According to the resident from Kyone Pe village in Karen State, for the last month and-a-half, the USDA has been holding meetings in every Mon village in Karen state; at these meetings the USDA has reportedly been organizing local youths, and students who have passed the ten standard high-school examination, to support the Burmese military government in the 2010 elections; these villages include Zartapyin, Kyone-Pe, Kayar and Than-le. Continue reading “USDA implements new “home-town” strategy in preparation for 2010 elections”

TPP residents complain land-grant fines

Wed 21 Oct 2009, IMNA
Residents of Three Pagodas Pass (TPP) Town, Karen State, are issuing complaints to the Township’s Land Records Department and the TPP Township Peace and Development Council (TPDC). Last week the two authorities announced the upcoming implementation of fines for residents whose grant-land extends over the legal length or width.

Last week, on October 17, the Township’s Land Records Department, which serves the Burmese government’s Ministry of Agriculture and Irrigation, commenced measuring TPP town residents’ land, and issued fines if land plots extended over 40 feet in width and 60 feet in length. The land –owners were told that they would have to pay 1000 baht to each entity (the Land Records Department and the TPDC) for each foot that their lands overreached.

According to a Mon TPP resident from No- 3 quarter, who informed IMNA that he is now the recipient of a 14,000 baht fine, “My house’s plot is currently 40 by 60 feet, it has been since I bought it. But according to the Land Records Department’s measurements, it is 47 by 60 feet.”

This No-3 quarter resident informed IMNA that if the if the Land Records Department follows the previously laid out measurements and measuring standards, land owners are legally within the official land measurements. Residents believe that the Land Records Department is utilizing a false measurement system to add to the number of feet measured in each plot, to force expensive fines on landowners. Continue reading “TPP residents complain land-grant fines”

US deputy secretary of state to visit Burma

Oct 21, 2009 (DVB)–Burmese opposition party members who met with United States embassy staff yesterday were told that Washington will soon send its deputy secretary of state to the country, a party spokesperson said.

It would mark the most high profile visit of a US politician to Burma in over a decade, and comes shortly after the Obama administration announced it would begin direct engagement with the military regime.
The head of the National League for Democracy (NLD) party’s information wing, Khin Maung Swe, said that three US diplomats led by embassy chargé d’affaires, Larry Dinger, met with NLD members at the party headquarters in Rangoon yesterday.
“It seemed like they came for a fact-finding mission before the [deputy] secretary’s visit,” said Khin Maung Swe. “They said they will also meet with other groups, just not only the NLD, so it’s quite likely that they are fact-finding.”
The last senior US politician to visit Burma was Senator Jim Webb, who arrived in the country in August and secured the release of imprisoned US citizen John Yettaw. Continue reading “US deputy secretary of state to visit Burma”

Qantas rejects calls to stop Burma flights

Oct 21, 2009 (DVB)–Australian airline Qantas has rejected calls from campaigners to stop subsidiary airline Jetstar from flying to Burma, claiming that it is an important service for aid workers.

Protestors dressed as “anti-Burma flight attendants” gathered outside of a building in Perth yesterday where the company’s AGM was taking place, Burma Campaign Australia (BCA) said.
“We’re urging Qantas shareholders to recognise that their investment is helping to ensure the long-term financial viability and stability of an oppressive military regime,” BCA spokesperson, Zetty Brake, said.
Qantas chief executive, Alan Joyce, was quoted in the Brisbane Times today as saying that the company had a “policy of constructive engagement” with the junta. He added that the executive director for World Vision charity in Australia had backed Jetstar’s operations that provide “vital access” to Burma for charity workers.
A commentator based in Thailand’s Mae Sot, close to the border with Burma, said that Singapore-based Burmese migrant workers used the airline frequently to return home.
Qantas owns a 49 percent stake in the budget airline, which runs three flights a week to Burma. There have been loud protests in many countries, including Australia, for companies to stop investing in Burma, which is seen to prop up the military regime. Continue reading “Qantas rejects calls to stop Burma flights”

Burma stations three warships along Bangladesh border

by Mizzima News
Wednesday, 21 October 2009 18:07

Dhaka (Mizzima) – The Burmese military has brought in three warships at its border town of Maungdaw, amidst reports of escalating tension between Bangladesh and Burma over their long-standing maritime dispute.

The medium and small sized warships have been stationed since October 19, on the Sai Tin River, east of Maungdaw town and about 20 miles southeast of the Bangladesh-Burma border, a local resident as well as sources of the military based on the border said.

The warships number 110, 308 and 552 of the Sittwe and Danyawaddy Navy Bases have come from Sittwe through the Mayu River and have finally been positioned on the Sai Tin River near Maungdaw town.

Local eyewitnesses said, the ships had artillery in the front and rear and had a crew of about 60 each.

However, sources said, three warships that were earlier positioned near the disputed maritime zones have returned and are now being stationed between Sittwe and Yathethaung.

Since the beginning of October, both Burma and Bangladesh have reinforced military and navy forces along the land border and maritime borders. But, neither country had officially announced the reason for the increased security.