China Draws Up Plan to Harness Burmese Electricity for Itself

Saturday, 23 January 2010 00:00
The Irrawaddy

Chinese companies have begun drawing up plans for a mini power grid along the Irrawaddy River in Burma—to transmit electricity north into southwest China.

An outline of the 15-year project has been disclosed in a report published by China’s chief energy planning authority, the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC).

The NDRC and several state enterprises, including China Power Investment Group and China International Engineering Consulting Corporation (CIECC), are involved in the planning.

An assessment report should be completed by the end of this year, the director of electricity at CIECC, Zhou Jiachong, says in the state magazine China Investment.

Agreements signed in 2009 between these companies and the Burmese military government for hydroelectric development along the Irrawaddy would have a combined electricity generating capacity of 21,000 megawatts, said Zhou.

That’s more than two-thirds of the entire capacity of next-door Thailand.

“Myanmar is a smaller country with less population relative to China. Most of the electricity generated cannot be consumed domestically. So for Chinese companies, they have to consider power transmission back to China when developing Myanmar’s hydro-power resources,” said Zhou.

In fact, Burma has one of the world’s worst electricity generating capacities—a mere 1,700 megawatts for a population of around 50 million. continue

Army allows only Chinese to grow poppy in Northern Burma

Monday, 25 January 2010 KNG
The Burmese Army has been allowing only Chinese businessmen to grow poppy to generate regular opium tax from them in Burma’s Northern Kachin State, said sources close to Burmese military bases.

A poppy field in Sadong in Waingmaw Township in Kachin State, northern Burma.

Hundreds of acres of poppy fields owned by over 30 Chinese businessmen in Nahpaw and Pajau Bum in Waingmaw Township, former headquarters of Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) fell to the Burmese Army in 1989. They are owned by Chinese businessmen, who are only authorized to grow poppy by Burmese army battalions. Troops are deployed in rotation every three or four months, said hired workers in the Chinese poppy fields.

Eyewitnesses told KNG today, that the poppy fields can be seen around the Burmese military bases in the former KIO headquarters and nearby areas controlled by the army.

Ethnic Kachins and other races in Kachin State are not allowed to grow poppy and every Burmese Army battalion in the mountain range prohibits Kachins saying “We don’t want to see a single Kachin crossing the army base,” according to hired workers in the poppy fields.

All poppy field owners and workers have to cross the Burmese Army base to go to their poppy fields, workers said.

Every army battalion posted for three or four months in the Nahpaw-Pajau army base, demand between 4 million Kyat to 15 million Kyat (US$4,167 – $15,625) as one-time tax from all poppy field owners around the base.

Since a couple of weeks ago, the Dawhpumyang-based Burmese Army No. 142 Infantry Battalion (IB) commanded by Lt-Col Khin Maung Win has arrived in the military base in the Nahpaw-Pajau poppy field area. It has demanded 15 million Kyat (US$15,625) as poppy tax from fields owners, said sources close to the army battalion.

The poppy is bearing buds and the opium will be harvested next month, according to locals.

Chinese businessmen in Kachin State and from neighboring China’s Yunnan province are attracted by the terms of the Burmese Army base and grew poppy in November last year and will harvest it in February, after the Namti-based Burmese Army No. 382 Light Infantry Battalion (LIB) took over duty in that base.

Sometimes, some poppy fields near the military base are destroyed by the military, when senior officers visit. But the military base demands opium tax even from owners whose fields are destroyed, added sources close to poppy field owners.

On December 14 last year, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) reported that opium cultivation in Burma increased in the third straight year, especially in Kachin State and Shan State.

The UNODC said Kachin and Wa rebels sell drugs to buy weapons but the agency’s report was denied by KIO and United Wa State Army (UWSA), who rejected the disarmament plan of the ruling junta.

Thousands of Thai-Mon people joined in the 63rd Mon National Day ceremony in Uthai Thani

Thai-Mon communities gathered in Uthai Thani province to celebrate one of the most significant Mon holidays commemorating the founding of the old Mon capitol, Hongsawatoi.

The ceremony and festival, celebrated on January 24th, drew an estimated 6,000 members of the Thai-Mon community from over 20 provincial areas in Thailand. The attendees arrived by large buses as well as a variety of smaller vehicles from outlying areas, to celebrate what is now the 63rd anniversary of Mon National Day. The ceremony and festival included performance arts, a food fair, a cloth fair, a musical performance and speeches focusing on the remembrance of the previous centuries during the reign of the Mon kingdom when Mon culture flourished and its people lived in an independent state.
According to Thai-Mon families in attendance, the gathering was held in Parchar Mon village, in Nong-chang District of Uthai-thani. Where the gathering was held in the compound of the village monastery. There are over 8,000 Mon in the whole district, and are separated into over 10 villages, where communities still practice Mon traditions and customs, explained a local community leader, Nai Samarn Pongparam. Continue reading “Thousands of Thai-Mon people joined in the 63rd Mon National Day ceremony in Uthai Thani”

Assistance Association for Political Prisoners – calls for release of poet Saw Wei

New Delhi (Mizzima) – The Thai based Assistance Association for Political Prisoners – Burma (AAPP-B) has called for the release of poet Saw Wei at the earliest possible date, as his release was set for the 21st of this month.

Poet Saw Wei was arrested on the 21st of January 2008 after his poem entitled ‘February 14’ which cryptically included the stanza ‘Power crazy senior general Than Shwe’ appeared in the Love journal. He was later charged with committing disaffection to the State and sentenced to two years imprisonment along with his judicial custody term, AAPP-B said.

“In fact, his judicial custody term must be deducted from his prison term starting from the date of his arrest. But the court counted his judicial custody starting from the date of trial commencement. So, the previous three months custody means unlawful custody. In this way he is losing his lawful rights. We call for the immediate release of poet Saw Wei,” exclaimed AAPP-B Joint-Secretary Bo Kyi.

Lawyer Soe Min added, “The Insein prison special court judge pronounced his judgment to serve his sentence along with his custodial term concurrently. His custodial period started from the 21st of January when he was arrested.”

In hope of his being released, his wife Nan San San Aye visited Yemethin prison in Mandalay Division where he is being held, though authorities informed her she must return home. Continue reading “Assistance Association for Political Prisoners – calls for release of poet Saw Wei”

Labour shortage as migrant workers quit jobs to avoid nationality ID

Published: 24/01/2010 at 12:00 AM
Migrant workers in Samut Sakhon are quitting their jobs to avoid nationality identification, resulting in labour shortages in the province.

Somsuk Kongkachane, secretary-general of the Federation of Thai Industries, Samut Sakhon chapter, said about 2% of the 160,000 registered migrant workers in the province, or about 3,200 people, have quit their jobs over the issue. Samut Sakhon is home to Thailand’s largest number of migrant workers.

More than 60% of migrant workers in the province are Mon and Karen ethnic minorities from Burma.

Their work permits are due to expire, mostly this month, and they must submit applications for nationality verification and temporary work permits by February’s end. If they fail to do so, they would be regarded as illegal workers.

If caught, they could be arrested and deported. Observers say the nationality verification process by Lao and Cambodian officials has proceeded smoothly.

However, in the case of Burma, the verification process has been slow.

The government initially set Feb 28 as the deadline for migrants to complete verification process, but the cabinet on Tuesday decided to extend the deadline to Feb 28, 2012. Continue reading “Labour shortage as migrant workers quit jobs to avoid nationality ID”

U Win Tin”This is not politically significant since the elections would already be finished when Aung San Suu Kyi is released.”

Nyan Win, a spokesman for the National League for Democracy party, said the comment purportedly made last week by Home Minister Maj. Gen. Maung Oo was “nothing new or extraordinary.”

“If the media reports were correct, hopes for Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s earlier release under the executive order were dashed,” said Nyan Win.

News reports on U.S.-government backed Radio Free Asia and elsewhere cited witnesses as saying Maung Oo in a Jan. 21 speech declared Suu Kyi would be freed in November. The reports said he spoke at a meeting of several hundred officials in Kyaukpadaung, a town about 350 miles (560 kilometers) north of Yangon.

Meeting to be held on 3,000 refugees in Tak

Published on January 25, 2010
Thai military, Democratic Karen Buddhist Army, Karen Nation Union , NGOs and representatives from UNHCR will today hold a talk to determine the fate of about 3,000 refugees in Nongbua, Tha Song yang district in Tak province, according to border sources.

It has been seven moths since the group of refugees has been residing in Thailand and there were several attempts to send them back before. This time around, the meeting will be held in Tha Song yang district for finding a solution for the group of refugees.

The refugee are now living in poor condition without prominent shelters and they always want to go back but they can’t, according to NGO workers in the filed.

Although they feel their freedom are limited on Thai soil, they are glad to have a chance for their children to continue their studies after the NGOs set up a school to teach the young refugees, the sources said.

Almost a week ago, the refugees told Thai government that they would rather stay along the border and wander around if the government wants to repatriate them. The repatriation means their lives would risk danger from fighting in Burma.

The meeting on January 25 will surely decide on their fate but it remains unclear whether their plight and voices will be heard by all parties concerned.

No Meeting 0n 25.

200 Karen villagers forced into service in Than Tha Bin Township

January 25, 2010
HURFOM: Between January 7th and January 10th of this year, at least 200 villagers from various Karen communities in Than Tha Bin Township, Thaungoo district in Pegu division, were forced into service by soldiers from Light Infantry Battalion (LIB) No. 424 and Military Operation Command (MOC) No. 20, both based in Than Tha Bin Township.Area residents informed HUFOM’s field reporter that over the course of 3 days, conscripted villagers were forced to porter food and building materials for the battalions’ use; other villagers were pressed into service cutting bamboo to be used as building materials for the battalions in their various encampments around the township.
“From my village [Shan Yow Pole], we [villagers] had to provide the soldiers 100 bamboo poles for the soldiers’ buildings. We not only had to cut it [the bamboo], but we also had to carry it to the army camp,” said a 55 year-old Shan Yow Pole resident.
According to a Mae Kyauk village resident, on January 7th, 30 villagers from Mae Kyauk village, 30 residents of Dae Doe village, and 10 villagers from Ye Toe Kyin village were forced to porter food for soldiers from a small camp in Mae Kyauk village to an encampment in Bow Ka Lee village. The trip between the camps took the 70 villagers 3 days to complete; one porter was left behind after injuring his leg.
“We left him alone for three days. When we came back, he was in a serious condition because of his leg. The soldiers did not give him any medicine or nursing”, this Mae Kyauk resident told HURFOM’s reporter. Continue reading “200 Karen villagers forced into service in Than Tha Bin Township”