The illicit drug market in the Golden Triangle – Burma, Thailand and Laos – and in neighbouring India and China has undergone profound changes. This report documents those changes in great detail, based on information gathered on the ground in difficult circumstances by a group of dedicated local researchers. After a decade of decline, opium cultivation has doubled again and there has also been a rise in the production and consumption of ATS – especially methamphetamines.
Drug control agencies are under constant pressure to apply policies based on the unachievable goal to make the region drug free by 2015.
This report argues for drug policy changes towards a focus on health, development, peace building and human rights. Reforms to decriminalise the most vulnerable people involved could make the region’s drug policies far more sustainable and cost-effective. Such measures should include abandoning disproportionate criminal sanctions, rescheduling mild substances, prioritising access to essential medicines, shifting resources from law enforcement to social services, alternative development and harm reduction, and providing evidence-based voluntary treatment services for those who need them.
The aspiration of a drug free ASEAN in 2015 is not realistic and the policy goals and resources should be redirected towards a harm reduction strategy for managing – instead of eliminating – the illicit drug market in the least harmful way. In view of all the evidence this report presents about the bouncing back of the opium economy and the expanding ATS market, plus all the negative consequences of the repressive drug control approaches applied so far, making any other choice would be irresponsible.
Bouncing Back, Relapse in the Golden Triangle
TNI, De Wittenstraat 25, Amsterdam
Following many decades of armed conflict between Myanmar's national
military and various ethnic groups, there are now opportunities for
peace. However, an official nationwide ceasefire has been delayed
several times. Many questions persist about the country's peace process.
This forum will evaluate the progress that has been made, and the
opportunities and challenges that remain on Myanmar's road to peace.
Finnwatch Researcher Andy Hall to Face Police Investigators to Defend Latest Natural Fruit Company Ltd. Criminal Charges in Thailand on 19th May
16th MAY 2014
Finnwatch Researcher Andy Hall to Face Police Investigators to Defend Latest Natural Fruit Company Ltd. Criminal Charges in Thailand on 19th May
For more information on this media advisory, please contact:
British migrant rights activist Andy Hall, who campaigns to improve conditions for migrant workers in Thailand, has appointed investigators at Bangna Police Station in Bangkok on Mon. 19th May 10am to give evidence against the latest criminal charges filed against him by Natural Fruit Company Ltd., a pineapple exporter based in Prachuap Kiri Khan, Thailand.
Human and labour rights abuses against Natural Fruit's workers have now been the subject of two Finnwatch research reports, the first to which Hall contributed.
The latest criminal charges filed against Hall by Natural Fruit Company Ltd. at Bangna Police Station, the 3rd set of charges filed against him so far, reportedly relate to defamatory remarks made by Hall in an interview to Aljazeera in Myanmar. The Aljazeera story featured Hall’s reflections on migrant conditions in Thailand and also charges of criminal defamation and breaches of the Computers Crimes Act and a 300 million baht (US$10m) civil defamation case filed against him by Natural Fruit.
If a court finds Hall guilty of the criminal charges laid against him, he could face a maximum of 7 years imprisonment per count. This has raised strong concerns from 6 UN human rights Rapporteurs. All the charges reportedly relate to his role in conducting interviews with migrants from Myanmar to assist Finnwatch to compile a report, Cheap Has a High Price. This report, released in Jan 2013 (available here) outlined poor labour conditions in various seafood and pineapple export companies in Thailand. A follow up report, released in Jan 2014 (available here), outlined how all previously researched companies still failed to remedy abuses reported in the original report. According to interviewed Natural Fruit workers, the company still confiscated work permits, prevented workers from changing employer and made deductions from unlawful salaries. The problems highlighted in Thai officials own investigation of conditions at the Natural Fruit factory still persisted. Natural Fruit has responded to Finnwatch’s findings denying all illegalities.
Hall previously reported to Bangna Police Station on 28 Sep. 2013 after the British Embassy in Bangkok notified him of fresh criminal charges filed against him but refused to provide details. During this visit, an officer attempted to get Hall to sign a Thai language confession accepting guilt. Hall refused to sign the document, requested a copy and left the station.
Hall later filed complaints against police misconduct to the Commander of the Thai Police Force, Thailand’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Thailand’s National Human Rights Commission and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in London. In a Nov. 2013 letter, Bangna Police stated officials had already informed Hall of the charges against him in compliance with law and no unfair conduct was present. The letter did not mention the confession statement Hall was asked to sign.
Hall continues to insist the latest criminal charges against him at Bangna Police Station have no legal basis as they relate to an interview given to Aljazeera outside of Thailand. In any case, prior to pressing defamation charges, Natural Fruit Company Ltd. only listened to part of the interview he gave to Aljazeera that was disseminiated. In order to assess admissibility of such a case, police officers should first obtain all related evidence, including a copy of the full interview, prior to deciding whether to proceed with the case. Hall understands officers didnt adequately investigate charges against him prior to his previous station visit.
According to internal documents obtained by Hall under the UK’s Freedom of Information Act, by the end of Sep 2013 the British Embassy in Bangkok was informed by Bangna Police Station that an arrest warrant against Hall was pending in relation to the latest charges and likely to be issued in Oct 2013. Following this, Hall would be apprehended by Immigration officials should he arrive to Thailand from overseas. The same documents described how the Embassy planned not to inform Hall of these developments as they were ‘unable to interfere in the judicial process.’
However, following Hall’s Sep 2013 attendance at Bangna Police Station and the reported confession documents, in Oct 2013 the British Ambassador to Thailand, Mr. Mark Kent, wrote a letter to Thailand’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, stating that ‘Any accusation of attempted coercion to sign a confession is of course a serious claim and we hope that the Thai authorities will look into this as a matter of urgency.’
The initial 2 criminal and civil cases filed by Natural Fruit Company against Hall have yet to proceed due to the failure to serve case summons on him. However, Hall considers it important that in the latest case filed at Bangna Police Station he should again attend the police station to deny the charges and defend himself. In addition, on 19th May, Hall will again press officers to drop the latest case as there is no legal jurisdiction to prosecute and the full interview he gave to Aljazeera has yet to be obtained. Hall also accepts the Thai criminal justice process and respects the need to face police officers to defend charges laid against him.
Finnwatch continues to demand that Natural Fruit Company drop all criminal and civil charges filed against Andy Hall and address poor labour conditions in it's factory. Finnwatch, alongside the Finnish League of Human Rights, also continues to express it's dissatisfaction at the validity of Thai officials inspections of Natural Fruit's factory and urges the Thai authorities to properly investigate labour conditions at Natural Fruit's factory again more thoroughly and without further delay.
Statement by the Women’s League of Burma
April 24, 2014
The Women’s League of Burma welcomes a new report by United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon that calls for Burma’s government to investigate crimes of sexual violence, and highlights the need for constitutional reform to bring the military in Burma under civilian oversight.
The Secretary-General’s new annual report on Conflict-Related Sexual Violence cites continuing incidents of sexual violence in Burma during 2013, and calls for Burma’s government “to investigate and respond to current and historical human rights violations and abuses including crimes of sexual violence.” WLB welcomes this clear recognition of State failure to deal with past and present military sexual violence in Burma. However, previous government-led investigations into military rape have not only failed to deliver justice, but have led to further humiliation and intimidation of rape survivors and their communities. We therefore maintain our call for an independent investigation into sexual violence in conflict areas to be carried out by independent international groups, as well as grassroots organizations working to support and protect women survivors.
WLB is also heartened by the Secretary-General’s inclusion of findings by the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar that “the obligations of the State to fully investigate and hold perpetrators to account had not been met.” He recommended “amendment of constitutional provisions to provide better accountability and civilian oversight over military tribunals.” This conforms directly with WLB’s analysis that the first step to ending military impunity for sexual violence must be to change Burma’s 2008 Constitution.
As preparations are being made for comprehensive political dialogue under the peace process, WLB wishes to reiterate that the role of the Burma Army is a critical factor to protect women from further abuses by the military. Human rights violations, including sexual violence, have been endemic to military rule in Burma, and today, even under nominally civilian rule, these violations are continuing because of the 2008 Constitution, which continues to place the military above the government. Unless and until the military is placed under civilian control through constitutional change, sexual abuses against ethnic women will not stop, and the same pattern of impunity will continue.
1. Tin Tin Nyo + 66 (0) 81 032 2882
2. Jessica N. Khun + 66 (0) 89 954 8074
Process of Myanmar Migrant worker who will complete 4 years stay permit visa and would like to extend their visa and work in Thailand
- Demand letter of Myanmar workers
- Name list of the worker
- Employment contract between the worker and the employer
- Power of attorney
- Job application form
- Copy of the work permit (page include Thai employer’s name)
- Copy of the worker’s temporary passport
- Documents related to identification of the citizenship
- Police Information Division form
- Immigration and national registration form
The confirmation list will also be sent to Thai employment department in order to inform the employer and their workers to go to the one –stop – service center at either Mae Sai, Mae Sot and Ranong. The worker must bring inform letter from employment office and demand letter together with them. Once they arrive at the center the employer and worker to sign the employment agreement contract and the worker will receive the Myanmar overseas worker ID card. Then, proceed to apply and obtain stay visa permission from Thai immigration department and temporary work permit. After they received stay permit visa from the border center, they must apply for the work permit at their district employment office where they work.
For those temporary passports still valid for more than 2 years, the Myanmar worker must fill the form and send to ordinary passport issue department, Myanmar embassy for verification of their nationality. However, they can extend their stay permit visa at the OSCC without waiting for confirmation of the nationality. The worker must bring the letter from Thai employment department and demand letter to one of the OCSS at Mae Sai, Mae Sot and Ranong they has chosen. Once they arrive at the center the employer and worker to sign the employment agreement contract and will receive the Myanmar overseas worker ID card. Then, proceed to apply and obtain stay visa permission from Thai immigration department and temporary work permit. After they received stay permit visa from the border center, they must apply for the work permit at their district employment office where they work.
The expenses for the process from Myanmar side will be 1,600 baht (note – the replacement fee for lost or damaged of ordinary passport is 900 baht. The fine to be 3 time of the passport fee 2,700 baht. The service fee is 700 baht. Total 4,300 baht will be collected).
The fee for those temporary passport validity remain more than 2 years but do not change the passport to the ordinary passport is 700 baht.
Please be informed that by using brokers service could be cheated and fill up different or incorrect information will not be able to get the passport.
For more information, please contact Myanmar Labour Attaché (phone – 0066 8677 468 25) and migrant labour department in Myanmar (phone 067 – 430183 or 067 – 430185).
Ministry of Labour, Employment and Social Welfare
Spreading Burma Army attacks and abuses against civilians in Shan State undermine nationwide ceasefire negotiation
March 28, 2014
The Shan Human Rights Foundation is deeply concerned at the escalation of attacks and abuses by the Burma Army against civilians in different areas of Shan State during March 2014, which are undermining current negotiations for a nationwide ceasefire.
Unlawful attacks and abuses have been documented recently in three townships, Nawng Khio and Kyaukme in northern Shan State, and Murngton in eastern Shan State. Troops from six Burma Army battalions have fired mortar shells at villages, arrested and tortured villagers, and looted villagers’ property and livestock.
In each incident, the Burmese troops were targeting civilians during military operations against Shan armed forces, the Shan State Army – North (SSA-North) and the Shan State Army – South (SSA-South), both of which have ceasefire agreements with the Burmese government and are involved in current negotiations for a nationwide ceasefire accord.
During March 1-2, 2014, as reported by SHRF, Burmese government troops from three battalions, Hsipaw based 502, Bago Division based 77, and Nawng Khio based 115, fired shells and sprayed gunfire without warning into villages in Nawng Khio township, severely tortured a villager, questioned the villagers at gunpoint, and looted livestock; causing about 2,000 villagers from eleven villages to flee their homes.
Similarly, on 22nd of March, 2014 as reported by the Shan Herald Agency for News (SHAN), around 200 troops from the same Battalion 77 which had attacked villages in Nong Khio earlier in the month, and Battalion 503 attacked and fired shells into Ngar Jarng village, 20 miles from Kyawkme township, northern Shan State. The Burmese troops also arrested, interrogated, and tortured six villagers, including one woman, suspected of associating with SSA-N. It was also reported that the Burma Army has reinforced its troops in the area to at least 500 soldiers.
Additionally, as reported on 26th March by the Shan Herald Agency for News and Tai Freedom news, on 23rd March 2014, Burmese soldiers from Infantry Battalions 519 and 53 looted villagers’ property and livestock after fighting with the SSA-South in Banggeng village, 10 kilometers east of Murngton township, Eastern Shan State. According to the report, “the Burmese troops entered into all houses of the villagers and threatened villagers with their weapons. Some troops gathered all villagers at the center of the village and many of them searched the houses of villagers and took the materials and properties owned by villagers as they wanted.”
It is unacceptable that Burmese government troops are stepping up these kinds of unlawful attacks and abuses precisely while the government is negotiating with ethnic leaders for a nationwide ceasefire agreement. This is directly destroying trust in the peace process, and undermining chances of establishing peace.
These recent incidents conform to the pattern of abuses committed by the Burmese military against civilian populations for decades, as highlighted by a report by Harvard University’s International Human Rights Clinic launched on March 24 in Rangoon. The Clinic urged the military to end “indiscriminate attacks and wilful killings of civilians” and “to immediately renounce all counterinsurgency policies and practices that lead to the targeting of civilians.”
We, the Shan Human Rights Foundation strongly urge Burmese government to immediately stop all unlawful attacks and abuses targeting innocent civilians, and to stop expanding military operations in ethnic areas, especially during this time while nationwide ceasefire negotiations are underway.
17 March 2014
Kachin State, Burma
We have just returned from a series of relief missions to the Kachin and Shan States. There the Burma Army continues its attacks on ethnic minorities. Please see our reports and video of these attacks at www.freeburmarangers.org . The Burma Army also over-watches opium production and logging, and protects a gas pipeline that profits them but few others. This report will be the first in a three-part series that documents the Burma Army’s predatory rule of this part of Burma. Part one is “Opium, Burma Army-controlled narcotic militias and real people,” part two is “Attacks on the people and logging” and part three is “The Shwe Pipeline and the oppression of the people.”
After conducting medical and Good Life Club (GLC) programs and documenting the Burma Army attacks in southern Kachin State, we moved to northern Shan State to work with the Ta’ang, Shan, and Kachin people there. On this mission Arakan, Kachin, Karen, Karenni, Shan and Ta’ang FBR team members served the IDPs and villagers we met.
After conducting more programs with the Ta’ang people in northern Shan State, we moved to an area of opium production. We were accompanied by elements of the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA), the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) and the Shan State Army North (SSA-N). These groups are united in their struggle for freedom in Shan State and all of Burma. They also have a policy to eradicate all narcotics. We went to the Pang Say area of Nam Kham Township, northern Shan State. Here there were opium fields around every village that we encountered. The Chinese families producing the opium are uniformly poor and some wretchedly so. Most are living in dilapidated shacks of wood, thatch, stone and tattered plastic sheeting. They are all under the control of the Burma Army-supported People Militia Force (Bi Thu Sit or Ta Ka Sa Pha in Burmese). The militia is led by an ethnic Chinese man named Kyaw Myint, who is also a member of Parliament representing Namkham No.2 constituency for the Burma government-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP). Namkham is situated on the China-Burma border close to the Muse-Riuli crossing.
Personal Experience with Opium families
The Ta’ang resistance has an anti-narcotics education program and every Ta’ang village we visited had a large vinyl poster educating people on the evils of narcotics and the policy of the Ta’ang against it. They have a program to educate, provide subsidies and crop substitutions and to conduct enforcement. As we prepared to go, the local leaders told us that the Ta’ang Army was planning to start destroying all the opium fields in the area later this month. We planned to document that too, if it happened while we were there.
We started the movement into the opium area and by the second day began to see opium fields. We stopped at the first large field and began to take photographs. We had only been there 20-30 minutes before we were told that the Burma Army in a camp to the north had word we were there and were coming to attack us. We finished our documentation and moved on deeper into the opium growing area with a rear guard watching for the Burma Army.
We climbed up to over 5,000 feet and entered into a high valley with opium fields and houses scattered on the hillsides. On top of a small hill in the center of the valley was a village of about 10 houses, and in the middle of the village stood a larger stone-and wood house. Opium fields came right up to the house. The combined Kachin (KIA), Ta’ang (TNLA) and Shan (SSA-N) troops set up a security perimeter around the village and we began to document the opium fields. As we approached the stone house on the hill, the Chinese family there looked at us fearfully. I looked back at them and smiled as I took photos of the opium all around their house, the house itself and the 4-wheel drive jeep parked in front. This was the only vehicle we had seen at any farm and signified that this family had connections and more resources than most. Still, to me they looked very poor. I felt pity, mixed with dislike of their chosen profession. I took photos, investigated the property and made notes.
After about an hour of taking photos and gathering information, the leader of this part of the mission said we would stay here one night and the next day go to do a reconnaissance of the nearby militia camp. To our surprise we were told we would be sleeping in the house of the family with the jeep – the same family I had spent time documenting and had looked down on. “We have control right now, and unless the militia or Burma Army comes we will sleep here,” our local Ta’ang leader told us. “We have told the people here to stop growing opium and we are trying to help them find other ways. Still they do not listen and keep growing the opium. At some point if they do not stop, our Ta’ang troops will destroy it. But for now we just document it.”
I felt awkward as we entered the house of the opium growers but we smiled and in limited Chinese thanked them for their hospitality. My wife led the way in establishing friendship and was soon sitting around the fire with the women of the house. As she shared with smiles and hand signals and then later through one of our team who could speak Chinese, the family began to warm up and became very friendly towards us. On my part, I began to like them and by that night felt warm and close. Opium farmers are still people and I was finding that out. It was not a simple, “good guy-bad guy” situation. We told them we were here to find out about the situation and they did not need to be afraid of us. Our local Ta’ang leader told them the same. We all knew the Ta’ang had a plan announced to destroy the fields but did not know when that would happen. For now we were becoming friends.
The next morning we took some of the teams and climbed up toward the Militia camp. The camp squatted on a mountaintop that over-watched all the land below it. It can be seen from miles in each direction and it reminded me of a feudal fortress dominating all below.
“It looks like Mordor,” said one of our team members. It did. A bare, tree-stripped, scared, fortified mountaintop stronghold, ruled with bad purpose, subjugating the people below it.
Opium fields were arrayed below the camp coming up the mountain to within a few hundred yards of the outside fence.
We approached the camp carefully and spent most of the day filming and photographing the camp and the soldiers in it. The new flag of Burma, yellow, green and red with a white star, was on the flag pole. The militia troops were in dark green uniform similar to Burma Army uniforms. After gathering all the documentation we could, we started the walk back to the village we had come from.
When we arrived we were greeted with smiles by the family we stayed with. They, my family and the teams that had stayed back had become closer. This good feeling was interrupted when a new column of Ta’ang troops came into the village. They were from headquarters and were on orders to begin the destruction of the poppies today. We were all surprised and I said, “Yes, it is good to destroy the fields but please not now. We have been taken into these people’s homes, and they have shared their food with us. We told them they did not need to be afraid of us. They knew they needed to do something different but please give them more time. If the destruction starts now, with no other kind of help, they will feel like we betrayed them.”
Our kids ran up to me and said, “No, no they should not destroy these fields. These people are our friends!” The situation of us defending opium growers was new to me and seemed ludicrous. But in a flash it showed me how complicated this all was. Here were people trying to survive. They had chosen a bad way to do it, and we were against it and had told them that. At the same time they had been kind to us and we had enjoyed each other’s company. We had told them they did not need to fear us, that, yes, we were all against narcotics production but the FBR was here to gather information. These were poor people and not evil drug lords. In over 20 years of our work in Burma I have never seen a rich opium farmer – they are poor and desperate people scratching a living out of bare, deforested mountains. Here the militia, the Burma Army and the drug cartels can get rich but not these farmers. They were not innocent but they were also not evil. And they were now our friends. I thought back to last night when my wife sat with the family and shared the gospel story of how much God loved all of us and sent Jesus to help us. We had prayed with this family and we loved them.
As I was thinking these things, the Ta’ang army was advancing through the fields and knocking the poppies off the stalks with sticks. I prayed about what I should do. We agreed with the Ta’ang anti-drug policy, they are our friends and teammates and earlier we had hoped to document the destruction of poppies. At the same time, here were people in trouble. What can we do? “Comfort them and give them love,” was the answer I felt. I looked up and saw the woman of the house burst into tears and run away. Her daughter followed her sobbing. “Why why, why now, we are not ready, I have lost everything, how will we eat, how will we feed our family?” she cried. I went up to her and held her hand, telling her I was sorry and that we would help some way. Her brother looked at me stone-faced and walked away. We gathered around the mother and daughter and tried to comfort them.
My children had tears running down their faces and said, “We know opium is wrong but why now, why didn’t they have more time, these are our friends, what can we do?”
I prayed with the mother and through one of our Kachin team members told her that God had a way for her. She could ask God what to do, and God would show a new way. She wept as she answered me, “How will we eat and most of all how will we get my son out of prison? He is being held by the Burma Army and they have demanded $100 to get him released.” I asked our team if this was a true story and they said it was. “How can we save him, now all our way to make money is gone?” she cried.
I told the woman. “I will give you money for what you lost. Not because I think opium growing is right. I do not. It is wrong and our Ta’ang friends are right to destroy it. But we said that you did not need to fear us and we became friends with you and now this has happened. I am giving this money to help you set your son free, for food for your family and to encourage you to find another way. God will help you do that if you call on Him.” I gave her $230 which is about what she could have got with her crop. I explained why I did this to the Ta’ang leaders and soldiers and they all agreed it was okay.
The mother stopped crying and thanked us, saying, “I have nothing to give you but I will never forget this, thank you so much for this help.” My wife sat with her a long time encouraging her that this was an opportunity to make a new start and praying with her.
As we left to go to the next area I thought about this incident and it came to me that if you want to stop people from growing opium, loving them is the most important thing. For me, I see a five-part policy is needed:
- Crop substitution
- Food subsidies until the crops substitutes take effect
- Enforcement and punishment
- Love. To treat all people with love through each of the parts of a counter-narcotics policy will take longer but it is the moral way and will have the best, most long-term effect.
While in this village we interviewed some of the opium farmers. Most of the people here were too afraid to answer questions about opium. A few, however, were willing to talk and here is what we learned.
Q. Why do you grow opium?
A. Opium is the main thing in this area. Here rice does not grow well and so opium is the way we know to grow for money. We buy rice from other villages. Note: Some here said they have been growing opium for 5-6 years while others said over 16 years.
Q. Who owns this land and where do you sell the opium you farm here?
A. This is our land, we own it. Nearby villagers come and buy the opium but we don’t know who they are. They are Chinese, Ta’ang and Lisu people. But most the people here are Chinese and are all considered to be Kyaw Myint’s people.
Q. How much do you produce here?
A. The crop depends on the weather, but we average about 3 viss (7.5kg) a season. The price is usually 600,000-700,000 kyat (or about $600-$700USD) per viss (about $2800 a year). Last year we made 800,000 or 900,000 kyat ($800-900USD).
Q. How is production?
A. Opium production is up and down depending on the rains. We try to harvest during February and March before the rains. During the rainy season we can’t harvest because it washes away the opium residue on the bulbs. During harvest time they we do 4-5 harvests a month.
Q. Who is the authority in this area?
A. The Burma Army’s militia has control here. They are a Chinese militia under Kyaw Myint, who work under the Burma Army and they control the opium.
Q. Are there taxes on the opium?
A. Yes, the Peoples Militia Force (Kyaw Myint group) collects taxes once a year – they collect 10,000kyat per family. The militia who collect the taxes are stationed at Wa Ya Bum camp on Wa Ya Bum mountain. There are more than 10 militia troops fulltime at Wa Ya Bum camp and over 60 who patrol the area. The militia are Chinese, but they are a different clan than we are. They all belong to the militia group headquartered in Pang Say led by Kyaw Myint.
Q. What is the role of the Burma Army?
A. The Burma Army has overall control. The militia works under them. The Burma Army doesn’t usually come to the village, but five months ago they came on a patrol. Nothing happened. Those Burma Army soldiers were from Kutkai. Other times the Burma Army comes and takes and destroys things.
One family described the opium harvesting process:
The opium plant flowers, then the petals fall away and the bulb ripens. Opium is then harvested from the bulb. A multi-bladed scoring tool is used to score the bulb, usually twice on one side, making six scores. The raw opium oozes from the bulb scores and is then twice-scraped from the bulb with a short, wide, curve-bladed knife. The opium oozes out white, and is gathered on the wide knife where it turns brown. One bulb can be harvested from four to five times a month for about two months a year. It is sold by the viss for 600,000 -700,000 kyat per viss ($600-$700). One viss is about 2.5kg.
Burma Army controlled narcotic militias
The Burma army controls and supports the People Militia Force (Bi Thu Sit or Ta Ka Sa Pha in Burmese). The militia is led by Kyaw Myint who is a ethnic Chinese but who is a Burma citizen and a member of parliament. Second-in-command of the militia is his younger brother, Kyaw Htwe. Two other brothers, Jang Kwey Ching and Jang Lu, are next in the chain of command of the militia and they also have the duty of overseeing the illegal logging in this area. The militia is headquartered in Pang Say town, Nam Kham Township, and has camps in three other locations south of Pang Say along mountain range that rises over 6000 feet high. The militia is also co-located with Burma Army troops in Mong Wi Village in the Mong Wi valley southeast of Pang Say. The Shwey gas pipeline runs through this town and valley on its way from offshore Arakan State in southwest Burma to China.
Opium production in the past few years has increased in the Namkham area of northern Shan State and this is directly related to Kyaw Myint and his Burma Army-supported militia.
(From “Still Poisoned ,” a report by the Palaung Women’s Organization (PWO). According to this report, in the 2010-11 season, 1,109 hectares (about 4 ½ square miles) of land in 15 villages were now being used for opium cultivation, as opposed to 617 hectares two years ago in the same 15 villages. On this mission we saw eight of these villages and there were opium fields around each of them right up to the houses. According to another report by the Shan Herald Agency for News (SHAN), the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) documented that Shan State accounts for over 90% of the opium production in Burma and that in 2010 the total area under opium poppy cultivation across Shan State increased by 20% from the year before. Also in this report, the UNODC reported that Burma’s share of world opium production had increased from five percent in 2007 to 12 % in 2011. Opium farmers pay taxes of up to 8,000 kyat (US $10) per day to the militia. Some say they pay only a once a year tax of 10,000 kyat or more. The militia also controls methamphetamine trafficking and in this area a pill costs between 2,500 kyat- 3,000 kyat ($3.00- $4.00). The most common is the WY brand.
“Let my people go,” has been on my mind and heart for Burma. Whether the issue is opium, gas pipelines, logging or outright attacks, there is a way through this. For me it means listening to God and repenting of my own sins. It means asking God how to stand with the oppressed and against oppression of all kinds. It means praying for our enemies and trying to be friends. Everyone counts and together we can find a way forward – the Burmans and ethnic groups, the Burma Army and the pro-democracy movement, business and the welfare of all people. Burma is big enough for everyone. Love should be the center of any solution and is the way to find the balance between freedom and responsibility, conservation and progress, justice and mercy. Our prayer is that God will lead us to better understand and help each other work towards reconciliation for all people in Burma. Thank you for helping us do that.
God bless you and love,
Free Burma Rangers
By Roland Watson
March 16, 2014
There is now a desperate push by Burma's military dictatorship, including one of its public faces, the Myanmar Peace Center (MPC), and also ethnic traitors, to complete a nationwide ceasefire by early April. All sorts of announcements have been made saying that this timetable will be achieved. Of course, there have been months of such announcements regarding earlier deadlines, all of which were nothing less than regime propaganda, and which due to the insistence by the ethnic nationalities for achieving a fair deal for their people and for all of Burma, were not realized. The question should now be asked: Why does the regime view April as being so important?
The first thing to understand is that Burma's generals are demanding a unilateral or one-sided ceasefire, in other words, a complete surrender. The push for April therefore is nothing less than a negotiation over the surrender's timing. The regime is yielding nothing! It will not stop Burma Army attacks against the ethnic forces and peoples. Indeed, it has publicly stated, even in the face of unassailable evidence, that it is doing no such thing. Similarly, it will not stop its never-ending commission of gross human rights crimes, including murder, rape, arrest and torture, destruction of villages, extortion of and theft from villagers, etc. Nor will it agree to remove its forces from the ethnic areas, or even genuinely discuss the establishment of codes of conduct, which codes it has already agreed to negotiate and implement in its separate ceasefire agreements with the different ethnic armies. Ultimately, it is demanding that the ethnic forces disperse, give up their arms, and "join the legal fold."
Moreover, the regime refuses to discuss, much less agree to, the different ethnic demands including not only the cessation of attacks and abuses, and creation of codes of conduct, but also the drafting of a completely new Constitution to consign the military to its appropriate role in a democracy, and to establish a truly federal state and federal army.
In view of its continuing if not perpetual obstinacy, there is no reason for the ethnic groups to agree to anything, and given that the rightful representatives of the ethnic peoples can hold off the traitors, they won't.
The ethnic nationalities have now agreed to establish a joint committee with the regime to continue the discussions. From the regime's perspective, not to mention MPC and the traitors, the function of this committee is to prepare the specific terms of the surrender. It is therefore essential that sincere, uncorrupted representatives of the ethnic peoples are appointed to the ethnic side of the committee, not the corrupt traitors, so that ethnic and real Burma-wide interests are served.
This still leaves the question, though, why is the regime pushing for April? The answer to this is simple. The dictatorship knows that the upcoming census will be fraudulent. Its plans for this are already set. It further understands that much of the fraud will be uncovered, and that this will precipitate a popular reaction. In such an environment, an ethnic surrender will be precluded.
The regime has seen that its separate ceasefire agreements effectively defanged the resistance groups. Even in the face of the Burma Army repeatedly breaking and otherwise failing to fulfill the agreements, the ethnic forces, other than in Kachin and Northern Shan States, have done nothing. The dictatorship is confident that with a nationwide ceasefire/surrender in place, the ethnic forces, under the command of traitorous leaders, will also not react to the census fraud.
The ethnic groups should not agree to anything until after the census is completed and the results have been publicized, and further not until after any proposed deal has been presented for comment to the ethnic publics and civil society organizations.
Indeed, for the census, Kachin groups have already said that they will not recognize the results, and Karen groups have called for it to be postponed. Shan and Mon groups are planning their own count, to counter regime lies. Even worse, the regime has announced that Burma's most oppressed group, the Rohingya, will not even be counted.
Burma is still a military dictatorship, with a civilian facade. The recent announcement that the rights of the military to veto any constitutional amendments, will not be changed, not to mention its constitutional ability to act with impunity and with no legal consequences, is proof of this.
This leaves us once again with elementary arithmetic. For Burma to be freed, there must be a new popular uprising, and/or renewed armed resistance. Nothing less will suffice.
For an uprising, a trigger is required. The people of the country, from all ethnic groups, both ethnic nationality and Burman, are very angry, but something is needed to take them over the edge into large-scale action. While it is impossible to predict what will set a subjugated population off - witness Tunisia - a number of potential flash points in Burma are clear:
In other words, they should once again protest for freedom and democracy, not only against land thefts and other types of abuse.
To kick all of this off, one can only ask: Where are Burma's revolutionary graffiti artists?
Graduate Seminar: Women of Kachin State: Trafficking and Militarized Femininity on the Burma-China Border
The Regional Center for Social Science and Sustainable Development
(RCSD), Faculty of Social Sciences, Chiang Mai University presents the
Graduate Seminar on "Women of Kachin State: Trafficking and Militarized
Femininity on the Burma-China Border".
Secretariat, 12th APSA Conference
Regional Center for Social Science and Sustainable Development (RCSD)
Faculty of Social Sciences, Chiang Mai University
239 Huay Kaew Road, Tambon Suthep, Amphoe Muang, Chiang Mai 50200
Tel: 66-53-943595/6 Fax: 66-53-893279
e-mail: email@example.com / firstname.lastname@example.org
URL: http://rcsd.soc.cmu.ac.th /www.soc.cmu.ac.th
Please be invited to join a presentation and a discussion of the new
book The Face of Resistance: Aung San Suu Kyi and Burma's Fight for
Freedom, by Aung Zaw, founder and editor of The Irrawaddy news
organization and winner of numerous international journalism awards,
including an evaluation of the democracy icon's legacy, credibility, and
potential. The author will also provide insight into issues currently
affecting Burma during this unprecedented time in its history, including
prospects for next year's national elections. The event will be held on
20 March 2014, 2 - 4 pm. at the Faculty of Social Sciences, Chiang Mai
Miliband's visit comes at a time when the refugee situation in Thailand is in flux. Refugees who live in temporary shelters in Thailand are closely monitoring changes and political reforms taking place in Myanmar, including ceasefire negotiations between the government and non-state ethnic armed groups.
Under what circumstances will refugees from Myanmar be able to return home? How have funding reductions on the Thailand-Myanmar border affected services for refugees? What will happen to the estimated two million migrants from Myanmar temporarily residing in Thailand? What can ASEAN do to improve the situation of refugees in the region?
David Miliband and Christine Petrie, Thailand Country Director for the IRC, will be on hand to discuss these and IRC's important work globally.
For more information, please contact Christine Petrie at +66.81.733.4610 or email: Christine.Petrie@rescue.org.
Foreign Correspondents' Club of Thailand
Penthouse, Maneeya Center Building
518/5 Ploenchit Road (connected to the BTS Skytrain Chitlom station)
Patumwan, Bangkok 10330
Web Site: http://www.fccthai.com
Announcement of 'Consortium of Development Studies in Southeast Asia' (CDSSEA) Scholarships, Year 2014
RE: Announcement of CDSSEA Scholarships for Applicants from Cambodia,
Laos, Myanmar, Vietnam and Thailand Wishing to do a Master’s Program in
Development Studies at the Asian Institute of Technology, Chiang Mai
University or Chulalongkorn University in Thailand, 2014
The ‘Consortium of Development Studies in Southeast Asia’ (CDSSEA) is pleased to announce its offer of master’s scholarships for the 2014 academic year to successful applicants from Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Vietnam and Thailand. The CDSSEA program, which is comprised of the three leading development studies programs in Thailand, namely the MA in International Development Studies (MAIDS) at Chulalongkorn University, the M.Sc. in Gender and Development Studies (MGDS) at the Asian Institute of Technology and the MA in Social Science (Development Studies) (MASS) at Chiang Mai University, has been established with the aim of building leadership skills related to development studies among young and mid-career researchers in Southeast Asia - to strengthen the level of knowledge in the region regarding the regionalization of development and regional connectivity, in line with the emergence of the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC).
Under the CDSSEA, we offer scholarships to those who would like to further their study of development issues at one of the three programs mentioned above. Scholarships will be awarded to successful candidates from Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Vietnam (CLMV) and Thailand.
Please note that the deadline for CDSSEA scholarship application is 30 April, 2014. We would very much appreciate it if you could distribute this information to anyone who might be interested in applying for the scholarship, and have attached a brochure for your information. Please feel free to contact the CDSSEA Secretariat at: email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org, or access our URL: http://rcsd.soc.cmu.ac.th for further queries.
Dr. Chayan Vaddhanaphuti, Ph.D.
Consortium of Development Studies in Southeast Asia’ (CDSSEA)
c/o Regional Center for Social Science and Sustainable Development (RCSD)
Faculty of Social Sciences, Chiang Mai University
239 Huay Kaew Road, Tambon Suthep, Amphoe Muang, Chiang Mai 50200
Tel: 66-53-943595/6 Fax: 66-53-893279
e-mail: email@example.com/ firstname.lastname@example.org
CDSSEA booklet yr2014.pdf
First, the original name is “Shan National Day” and thus should be
used without altering it, until a new consensus is found among all the
Second, Federated Shan States, forerunner of the present Shan State, was a Federal Union in nature and had been ruled by respective Sao Hpa of each principality corresponding to its ethnic group. For example, the Palaung area was ruled by Palaung prince or Sao Hpa, the Pa O by the Pa O, the Kokang by the Kokang, the Danu by the Danu and so on.
Thus the "Shan Nation" should be seen as a collective national identity of all people residing within Shan State and not just belonging to the Tai ethnic group, the majority within Shan State.
But this is not to say that “Shan State Day” is not acceptable. We only need to find a consensus among us for a new name, if this is what we all want. For example, “Shan State National Day” could be one of the inputs or the way out of this deadlock.
Mai Soong Kha
12th Asia-Pacific Sociological Association (APSA) Conference
"Transforming Societies: Contestations and Convergences in Asia and the
Pacific" 15-16 February 2014, Faculty of Social Sciences, Chiang Mai
University. On-line registration until 5 February 2014
Burma is in the midst of change and we want to report to you what is
happening, both good and bad. We are grateful for those who have brought
greater freedoms to Burma. We also want to stand with those who have
not yet experienced those freedoms and are still under attack. Thank you
for your prayers and support.
A summary of the situation as we see it now in January 2014
Good news and improvement in some areas:
- Aung San Suu Kyi holds a position in parliament and she, along with others continue to work for more freedom, reforms and justice in Burma.
- There are some in the government at higher levels who do want to change the constitution and establish reforms before the 2015 elections.
- Many political prisoners have been released and there is greater political freedom.
- Censorship and travel restrictions have been eased.
- Ceasefire negotiations are ongoing with many of the ethnic groups and there is an overall reduction in fighting and displacement. Ethnic Armed Groups are negotiating with the government regarding political dialogue, credible monitoring mechanisms, and the need to consolidate existing ceasefires.
- Burma Army leaders have signed an agreement to end forced labor and there has been a reduction in some areas.
- The FBR had the opportunity to meet U Aung Min in 2012, as well as some of the leaders of the new government.
- In spite of and during ceasefire talks, the Burma Army attacks against the Kachin continue with over 100,000 Kachin people displaced since 2011. In November and December 2013 the Burma Army attacked a Kachin IDP camp burning shelters, looting rice stocks and displacing over 2,000 people who had to flee again. Attacks continue in this area as of January 2014. See FBR report.
- In northern Shan State, fighting and displacement continue against the Shan and Ta’ang people, through 2013 and into 2014. Attacks are especially heavy in Kut Hkai, Nam Kham, Nam San, Mon Ton, Mu Se, and Kyauk Mae townships. Victims are Kachin, Shan and Ta’ang villagers. In January 2014 the Burma army continued attacks into Kyauk Mae township, Northern Shan State, capturing villagers and torturing local leaders. *Report pending.
- In Karen State the Burma Army is using the ceasefires to supply their camps beyond the normal supply rate and continue to use forced labor. In December 2013, they fired on villagers on 9 different occasions in Luthaw Township, Muthraw District, Northern Karen State. They have also built new camps and reinforced existing camps. See FBR report.
- The constitution has not been changed and the military retains control of power.
- In Arakan State, over 140,000 people have been displaced by inter-ethnic violence between the Rohingya and Arakan. This has been partially fueled by repressive Burma government policies and actions. Rohinga refugees suffer brutal living conditions and live in constant fear of attack. Please see Fortify Rights Report on the Rohingya.
- Humanitarian access is still blocked for IDPs in parts of Karen, Karenni, Shan, Arakan and Kachin State.
- There has been no apology, expression of remorse or establishment of a truth and reconciliation process to address Burma Army attacks, oppressions, human rights violations, war crimes and displacement.
- Karen and Karenni refugees continue to live restricted lives with a decrease in food supplies.
- Land confiscation and land rights abuses have become worse due to government and business encroachment.
The Free Burma Rangers will continue giving help, hope and love to those under attack, to get the news out and to stand with the oppressed. FBR has added land-mapping to help villagers retain their land in the midst of changes. We pray for more positive changes and for a closer relationship with the Burma government. We continue to pray for and work for, reconciliation, justice and freedom for all.
Thank you and may God bless you,
Dave, family and all of FBR
December 29, 2013
The first national Tai Youth Conference was held in Mandalay from 27 to 29 December 2013, and altogether about 250 youth- both Tai women and men from 49 townships of Burma attended the conference.
The conference was opened with the key note speeches of the Shan State Member of Parliament Nang Kham Aye, the Chairperson of Shan Literature and Culture Association (Universities of Upper Burma) Dr. Sai Naw Khur, and the Chairperson of Mandalay Shan Literature and Culture Association Khun Tun Sarm.
The purpose of the conference was to start the process of forming a coordination team of Tai youth across Burma in time of current political development in Burma so that both Tai women and men youth will be able to increase their voices and concerns in various issues at different levels including current peace process. Moreover, it also aimed at enabling Tai youth to fully enjoy their rights.
During the three days’ conference, Tai youth discussed the issues of capacity building (formal and non-formal education), literature and culture, drug and migrant issue, and youth political participation. Tai youth also pointed out that there is limited space and support for youth in the leadership role and decision-making processes.
In addition, Tai youth discussed the problems and challenges particularly faced by the youth in the area they are living in. The following reflects the reality of Tai youth situation in Burma.
While the Tai population has long been experiencing from forced migration, and loss of in historical and cultural heritage due to the political instability and ongoing armed conflict, Tai youth have very limited access to education, that resulting in and limited opportunity to decent job and face unemployment
They also have the issue of drug use, which has led to low quality of living standard, deteriorating of health including HIV/ AIDS
Tai young women have been faced with limited access to basic information and services of reproductive health, and they are vulnerable to human trafficking and sexual exploitation.
Apart from these, Tai people have been suffering from land grabbing, environmental degradation, forced migration and chemical poisoning, due to some mega-development and mining projects.
Obviously, the political instability and armed conflict have serious impact on the Tai youth. Therefore, all the participants at the Tai Youth Conference have called all stakeholders for genuine and lasting peace in Burma, laid-down of education and health policies in comply with international standard and the rights to freely preserve the Tai’s literature and culture, and the safe return and resettlement of Tai migrant workers outside Burma other countries
Therefore, Tai youth attending the conference have unanimously agreed that in order to solve the problems and challenges, there is a need for a coordinating network of Tai Youth Network, which will coordinate and communicate to effectively tackle the youth affairs.
For details, please contact:
Sai Hseng Mong: 09 526 2936
Sai Hsai Leng: 09 4315 9639
Sai Wan Leng Kham: - 09 4451 08 235
Thai News Service
(c) 2013 Thai News Service
Section: General News - Thai villagers living on the banks of Salween river have submitted letters opposing the construction of the controversial Hat Gyi hydropower dam on the Salween River in Myanmar's Karen State.
Dozens of villagers and representatives from the Salween River Network have submitted two letters to the chief Mae Sariang District in the northern province of Mae Hong Son and a representative of the Electricity Generation Authority of Thailand (EGAT) on Thursday to express their objection to the dam.
Earlier, the Burma Rivers Network (BRN) claimed on its website that the Ministry of Electric Power of Myanmar, Thailand's EGAT and China's Sinohydro Company signed an agreement in 2006 to build the Hat Gyi dam on the Salween River in Karen State. BRN sources claim that it is estimated that the expenditure for construction of the Hat Gyi dam will cost USD $1 billion and will have a capacity of 1,200 megawatts - most of the electricity produced will be sold to Thailand.
Many groups both in Thailand and Myanmar showed their resistance to the plan because they believe the dam will turn a large number of residents on both sides of the Salween into displaced persons. Moreover, the river's ecology will be destroyed and also the way of life of people along the river.
The Salween River Network's president Nu Chamnarnkiriprai said the project was allowed, Thailand would have to shoulder a larger number of Karens who will be forced to flee their land and seek better opportunities in Thailand.
KHRG Wins 2013 Asia Democracy and Human Rights Award
On Tuesday, December 10, 2013, the Karen Human Rights Group will receive the Taiwan Foundation for Democracy's 2013 Asia Democracy and Human Rights Award at a ceremony in Taipei. This prestigious award is given annually for "significant contributions to the advancement of human rights or democracy in Asia through peaceful means." KHRG is the first human rights organization operating in Burma to win the award.
"This award has a lot of symbolic value to KHRG as an affirmation of the importance and value of our work. The grant that accompanies it will allow us to continue and expand our work in the coming years," said KHRG's Field Director, Saw Albert Moo, who will represent KHRG at the award ceremony.
KHRG is an independent, unaffiliated, locally-led organisation; our commitment is to villagers whose voices are often ignored. To promote the voices of villagers, KHRG engages in field research documentation, report-writing, and local and international advocacy. KHRG also conducts workshops with villagers where villagers can openly discuss the abuses and the challenges they face, gain greater knowledge of protection strategies, and consider options for collective action in their local area. Throughout the years, KHRG researchers have documented forced labor, systematic destruction of villages and crops, forced relocation, arbitrary detention, torture, extortion, summary executions and sexual assault.
In the last two years, KHRG has continued to bring human rights violations in eastern Burma/Myanmar, and the responses of villagers to those abuses, to the attention of international actors. In 2012, a KHRG delegation travelled to New York to present at a UN Security Council consultation meeting on the issue of child solders. KHRG released the report "Uncertain Ground: Landmines in Eastern Burma", in 2012, and "Losing Ground: Land Conflicts and Collective Action in Eastern Burma", in March 2013. KHRG is currently writing a report analyzing continued human rights abuses since the Burma government-Karen National Union ceasefire, which was signed in January 2012. The report will be published in March 2014.
"Though the overall human rights situation in southeastern Burma has improved since the ceasefire, too many abuses remain, including killing of civilians, and destruction of civilian property. Abuses by profit-seeking actors have increased since the ceasefire, because drug traffickers and land-grabbing businessmen have a new freedom of movement, and landmines continue to kill and injure villagers and restrict their ability to move freely," said Saw Albert Moo, KHRG's Field Director. "We hope that the international community will continue to support the villagers of southeastern Burma as they act to claim their rights."
For more information about KHRG's work or to arrange interviews in Karen, English or Burmese, contact KHRG on +66(0)852685519 or +95(0)931764207 or email email@example.com
Members of the media, diplomatic community and civil society groups
are cordially invited to the press launch of a new report “Economics of
Peace and Conflict” at the Myanmar Media Library on Monday 28 October at
Produced by the Myanmar Peace Process Monitor project of Burma News International, the report provides facts and data to interpret the role and impact of business engagement in the peace process.
The report observes that current economic engagement trends linked to the peace process have already caused serious negative impacts on local communities and may threat the durability of peace agreements. Ownership, control and management of land and natural resources cannot be separated from ceasefire agreement and peace talks. How such issues are handled can either strengthen or destroy the legitimacy and sustainability of peace agreements.
The report also examines some option for various stakeholders such as Government, Military, Non State Armed Groups, International Community, Business Investors and Civil Society to implement to ensure that there is a durable end to conflicts.
The report covers a range of grievances including increased militarization and violence, lack of ownership and control over natural resources, land confiscation, environmental and social impacts, and competition. It also provides information on various business organizations and key groups engaged in the peace process.
Where – Myanmar Media Library Centre, 437, E-3, Merchant Road and 44th Street, Botataung Township, Yangon.
When – October 28th (Monday), 2 pm
Contact person –
Nai Kasauh Mon – 09 255800 336
Nan Paw Gay – 09 317 63635