MP accuses militia of aiding Chinese timber smugglers in Puta-o
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
Amyotha Hluttaw MP U Jay Yaw Wu.