MP ac­cuses mili­tia of aid­ing Chi­nese tim­ber smug­glers in Puta-o

The Myanmar Times - - News - SWAN YE HTUT swanye­htut@mm­

SMUG­GLING of valu­able tim­ber in north­ern Kachin State has re­duced for­est cover in some ar­eas by up to 80 per­cent, say lo­cal of­fi­cials. They blame a lo­cal mili­tia and its civil­ian of­fi­cials, as well as for­eign ac­com­plices, amid hints that the na­tional armed forces might be in­volved.

Amyotha Hlut­taw MP U Jay Yaw Wu (NUP; Kachin 1) says Chi­nese smug­glers are steal­ing some of the world’s scarcest tim­ber in col­lab­o­ra­tion with mem­bers and sup­port­ers of the Khaunglanhpu mili­tia. Lo­cal res­i­dents who protest have been threat­ened and tor­tured, he said on Au­gust 11.

“There is also a lo­cal armed force, known as the 46th and 137th in­fantry reg­i­ment, be­sides the Khaunglanhpu mili­tia force. Gen­eral Aung, the sec­ond bat­tal­ion com­man­der of the Khaunglanhpu armed force, is in­volved. I heard that Chi­nese com­pa­nies pay them, but I don’t know how much,” said the Na­tional Unity Party MP.

The smug­gling is said to take place in the zone con­trolled by the Khaunglan­phu force, be­tween bor­der posts 30 and 46. The high-value trees be­ing felled are known as thit min bayin, kyaut htin­shu ahkaung pin and other rare va­ri­eties. They are said to be par­tic­u­larly val­ued for the mak­ing of coffins sup­pos­edly ca­pa­ble of pre­serv­ing the re­mains buried within.

“They use the tim­ber for coffins, set­tees, beds and ta­bles. A set­tee costs about K80 mil­lion, a ta­ble K40 mil­lion and a cof­fin can go for as much as K100 mil­lion [US$84,000] if it’s made of heart­wood. Yet the mili­tia sells the trees for 200,000 yuan [$30,000] per 20-to-30-tonne truck­load,” he said.

“The smug­gling de­prives the coun­try of the rev­enue. Lo­cal res­i­dents are in­tim­i­dated. I am go­ing to raise the is­sue in par­lia­ment to get the gov­ern­ment to take ac­tion,” said U Jay Yaw Wu.

He said the for­mer gov­ern­ment had tried to get to grips with the prob­lem, at one time seiz­ing 100 tonnes of tim­ber about to be smug­gled. Lo­cal mili­tia had threat­ened res­i­dents’ rep­re­sen­ta­tives who came to Nay Pyi Taw to alert the gov­ern­ment. “The res­i­dents are un­armed ex­cept for bows and ar­rows,” he said, adding that the mil­i­tary had built a spe­cial road to trans­port the stolen tim­ber across the bor­der.

“When we brought this up last year, there were in­di­ca­tions that the Myan­mar mil­i­tary were in­volved. An army unit ad­vanc­ing on the lo­ca­tion fired its guns as they ap­proached, ap­par­ently giv­ing a sig­nal,” he said, iden­ti­fy­ing the deputy com­mand­ing of­fi­cer as a Ma­jor Aung Aung.

The area in which the smug­gling is tak­ing place is the font of the Aye­yarwady River, near its con­flu­ence with the Maykha and Ma­likha rivers, and is sub­ject to harsh weather, flood­ing, land­slides and drought in the sum­mer. Ac­cord­ing to es­ti­mates, only 20pc of the orig­i­nal for­est re­mains. – Trans­la­tion by San Layy

and Khine Thazin Han

Photo: Swan Ye Htut

Amyotha Hlut­taw MP U Jay Yaw Wu.

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