Building up of the Narco-State and Reef Blasting: Failed State-Sponsored Development Projects and their Impacts on the Lahu People Print E-mail
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Tuesday, 01 September 2009 00:00

1. The Mekong River and the Lahu People

The Mekong River flows between Burma’s Shan State and Laos. On both sides of this stretch of the Mekong are Lahu, Akha, Shan, En, Palaung, Sam Tao, Chinese, and other ethnic groups.1 On the Burma side, ethnic Shan make up about 40% of the population, while Lahu comprise 30%, followed by Akha at 15%, En with 5%, and Palaung 3%. The majority of these riparian communities practice shifting cultivation, and some are fisherfolk. Those who live on the banks of the Mekong grow beans, chili, tobacco, and other vegetables on the riverside when the water level is low. Villagers have few educational opportunities and are extremely destitute, with most of them owning only one change of clothes.

The Mekong River has a special significance for the Lahu, who, according to legend, came from the Mekong’s source. According to legend, once upon a time the Lahu lived in an area with poor soil, so they took up hunting. One day, hunters noticed a vine on the horn of a deer. When the vine fell to the ground, they examined it and noticed that it was much longer and healthier than the vines in their area. They followed the deer’s tracks to find where the vine grew, which led them to the Mekong. They trailed it downstream and found fertile subtropical soil suitable for agriculture. Traditional Lahu songs and proverbs are filled with references to the river. For example, true love is described as stretching from the source of the Mekong to the sea, and the beauty of a woman is likened to the glittering scales of a fish in the Mekong.

The Lahu originally came from the Tibetan plateau, and migrated down the Mekong River to Southeast Asia over the past two hundred years. The Lahu have a population of about 600,000, with an estimated 150,000 living in eastern Shan State where they now grow wet and dry rice, maize, tea, buckwheat, tobacco, and hemp. Today, the Lahu are mainly subsistence farmers, and their daily life and rituals revolve around the agricultural seasons. Besides farming and hunting, the Lahu are also adept at fabric and basket weaving, blacksmithing, and embroidery.2

The area is unstable with sporadic fighting between the Burmese military regime (State Peace and Development Council, or SPDC) and Shan State Army-South (SSA-S), as well as clashes between the SSA-S and the United Wa State Army (UWSA).3 These and various other armed groups and their political wings continue to grapple for territory and allegiance.4 The SPDC controls the southern section of the Mekong River basin in Burma, and is gradually wrestling away territory previously held by ethnic ceasefire armies and pro-government militias. These groups include factions of the UWSA, Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA), various Lahu militia groups, and remnants of the Shan State Army.5 The SPDC has been increasing pressure on the UWSA to disarm, a move that has strained their fragile truce, and some believe that large-scale fighting between the two sides may soon erupt.6

The Burma Army’s counterinsurgency efforts regularly include human rights abuses such as extrajudicial killings, sexual violence, and extortion, all of which add great hardship to the local people.7 The Lahu have also suffered tremendously under poorly planned drug eradication programs, losing both their food security and their lands. Moreover, reef blasting of the Mekong River is seriously threatening the livelihoods and traditional practices of the Lahu and other ethnic nationalities living along the river that depend on it for farming, fishing, and trade.

Lahu dress

Traditional Lahu dress and village

 

2. Drug Production and Eradication Programs

Currently, Burma is the world’s second largest producer of opium and a leading manufacturer and trafficker of other illicit drugs like amphetamines.8 In 2007, there were more than 68,447 acres of opium fields in Burma.9 Up to 99 percent of the country’s opium comes from mountainous areas in the Golden Triangle region and other parts of Shan State.10 Under British rule, opium was legally licensed, and production spiked dramatically after defeated Kuomingtang troops from Communist-ruled China fled to Shan State in 1950. Since the arrival of the Kuomintang, opium production in Shan State has boomed and has been responsible for much of the oppression, ethnic conflict, and poverty in the area.11

Most farmers who grow opium do so because they are poor. Poppy is a local cash crop used to buy food, clothing, and medicine, and opium sales account for almost a third of poppy growers’ income.12 Customarily, many families grow poppies on plots approximately four acres in size. While intended as a cash crop, some locals use opium as a painkiller and antidepressant because of the lack healthcare facilities.

In 1975, Burma’s military government launched its “Four Cuts” campaign to cut off insurgent groups from food, funds, intelligence and recruits. For people living in eastern Burma, this campaign meant forced relocation of villages, restriction of movement, destruction of houses, land, crops, food stores and other property, torture and killing of villagers suspected of helping resistance groups.13 The “Four Cuts” policy destabilized traditional rice-based livelihoods and local subsistence economies and is partly responsible for forcing farmers to turn to poppy cultivation for a means of survival.

Another factor driving opium production is the SPDC’s self-sufficiency directive, which requires all Burmese military field units to be responsible for their own supplies and funds. Encouraging locals to grow opium and extracting taxes from them is a popular survival strategy for Burmese troops throughout Shan State.14 Ceasefire groups such as the United Wa State Army and insurgent militias such as the Shan State Army-South (SSA-S) also depend on the opium trade and drug taxes to fund their arms, ammunition, food, and uniforms.15

Nominal Eradication Efforts

The SPDC maintains that its goal is to make Burma drug-free by 2014, a year earlier than ASEAN’s self-imposed deadline. Despite its promises, eradication efforts seem to have had little effect. Poppy cultivation in Burma decreased more than 80 percent from 1998 to 2006, in 2007, but overall production of opium expanded by 29 percent, with increased acreage in northern, eastern, and southern Shan State under poppy cultivation.16 Potential production of the drug rose by 46 percent.17 Each year LNDO surveys poppy farms in seven townships in eastern Shan State (Kengtung, Mong Ping, Mong Hsat, Mong Ton, Mong Phyak, Tachilek, and Mong Yawng). During the 2007-2008 season, field researchers noted more poppy farms than in recent years. Good harvests were found in every location.

The swell in opium cultivation and production is largely attributed to poverty, corruption, and lack of state control.18 Corrupt officials, along with ceasefire groups and insurgent militias, are involved in virtually every step of the drug cultivation, production, and trafficking process. The Burmese military’s role in these activities sustains and preserves the drug trade in eastern Shan State.19 Credible reports have revealed that drug production not only benefits local commanders and army and police personnel, but also many of the SPDC’s top generals as well.20 Officials gain from the drug trade by extorting arbitrary taxes from opium growers to supplement their low paychecks. They also arrange for their contacts to buy opium from villagers and receive additional revenue from the processing and selling of the drugs.21 Villagers are made to sell their whole poppy harvests to military contacts.22

Such rampant collusion calls into question the government’s sincerity in counter-narcotic efforts.23 In eastern Shan State, the SPDC has staged drug burning ceremonies and destruction of poppy fields only in selective locations and never in areas under control of its allies. LNDO found that in 2003, officials who ordered villagers to stop cultivating poppies under penalty of death later demanded opium taxes from the very same communities.24

International support to fight drug trafficking is dismally small. In 2003, eradication efforts by the UN Office of Drugs and Crime (UNODC) met only two percent of the needs of drug-affected communities in Burma.25 Some ceasefire armies have made their own efforts to stop overt poppy growing in parts of their territories over the past few years, particularly areas slated for international development aid, but this appears to have been compensated for by increased opium production in other regions.26

Why No Progress?

The ruling military clique has been relying on drug money to run businesses and stay in power. While the junta claims success in eradicating opium in order to receive international assistance, at the same time infamous drug kingpins such as Lo Hsing-han, Lin Ming Xian, and Wei Hsaio-kang are living luxuriously under full protection by the junta.

Banks that were established by drug warlords with drug money are used to finance road construction and other infrastructure projects of the military elite and their associates. Drug lord Wei Hsueh-kang and his comrades control the Hong Pan group of companies, which are involved in jewelry and gems, communications, electrical goods, agriculture, mining, textiles, and large construction projects.

News of drug seizures is often printed in Burmese newspapers, but the sum of these busts is a small percentage compared to the magnitude of drugs handled by the junta’s accomplices. Arrests are simply the result of disputes in sharing benefits with authorities, and those with high-ranking connections inevitably avoid prosecution. In May 2008 Aung Zaw Ye Myint, son of SPDC Lieutenant General Ye Myint, was accused of drug dealing, and both he and his father were put under house arrest. The General’s wife then threatened that if her son and husband were prosecuted, she would reveal the names of other generals involved in drug dealing. Since then the case has not proceeded.

Production Quotas

The imposition of production quotas and taxes forces villagers to continue growing opium to meet the demands of the SPDC and armed groups. In 2003, villagers were taxed 5,000 kyat for each acre under opium cultivation and were made to sell a minimum of two viss27 (about 3.2 kilograms or 7.26 pounds) of opium per acre to military contacts at below-market prices. Sometimes, a percentage of the harvest is demanded as well. In 2002, villagers in Mongpulong who refused to grow poppy were fined 5,000 kyat.28 In Laikha, for example, farmers whose fields did not produce the required two viss of opium per acre had to either buy opium from elsewhere to fill the quota or else pay 240,000 kyat —the buying price for two viss of opium—to the officials’ buying agent.

In the 2007-2008 season, each house in LNDO survey townships had to pay two tical29 (about 0.033 kilograms or 0.072 pounds) of opium to the local authority. Depending on the area, this could be a militia chief, a village headman, or a middleman, all of whom then pass the tax onto a local Burma Army battalion or township authority.30 In January 2009 it was reported that Burma Army patrols have been taxing villages in Mong Keung and Laikha Townships 200,000 kyats each.31 “We have no choice but to grow opium to survive,” said one villager from Mann Koe Township. “We can never pay our taxes by growing rice, only by cultivating poppy.”32

Communities who cannot pay opium taxes to the Burma Army are subject to livestock confiscations and forced labor on infrastructure projects. Groups like the United Wa State Army also extort opium tax. One interviewee said that villagers in Wa-controlled areas have to give 20 ticals of opium per year regardless if they grow opium or not, and may have to give more to the UWSA if their plots are larger.33

Opium sells from 15,000 to 45,000 Thai Baht per viss depending on quality, age, and distance from opium processing plants, but farmers remain poor as they have to pay opium taxes to as many as four different armed groups. Such heavy extortion has put incredible burdens on farmers in Shan State, who make on average only 700-800 kyat a day (approximately US $0.40-0.60).34 High production quotas put villagers at the mercy of weather and other natural variations. In addition, as they are locked in a system of growing poppy and paying taxes, communities are not self-sufficient in producing rice, and must pay for this high-priced commodity. The food security and financial situation of local families are worsened when SPDC troops take rice from locals by force or buy it from them at severely deflated prices. Many families have fled Shan State to escape extortion, confiscation of property, and other drug-related abuses.

Forced Relocation of the Wa

The SPDC’s counter narcotic strategies include forcible crop substitution programs and mass relocations, which have had little effect in reducing drug production. These measures have uprooted communities and destroyed livelihoods, pushing them deeper into debt. Hundreds of thousands of ethnic nationalities in the region have been displaced and forcibly relocated by state-sponsored drug eradication programs.

From 1999 to 2001, the SPDC ordered the United Wa State Party, the political wing of the United Wa State Army (recognized by the U.S. government as a narcotic-trafficking organization) to forcibly relocate approximately 126,000 ethnic Wa from northern Shan State more than 250 miles to the south. The Wa are believed to be the original residents of Shan state. They grow hill rice, which usually feeds families for up to half of the year. The rest of the year, Wa villagers rely mostly on proceeds from opium crops to buy rice.35

Both the SPDC and the UWSP stated that the massive Wa resettlement program was designed to help villagers grow alternative crops in the more fertile lands of southern Shan State and to make the Wa region drug-free by 2005.36 But some believe that the SPDC’s real intentions in forcing this massive population transfer were to disrupt ethnic insurgent dynamics in southern Shan State, build a local support base for the UWSA, which at that time had friendly relations with the SPDC, and erode general anti-government resistance by intensifying ethnic tension in the region. All are part of the SPDC’s classic divide-and conquer strategy.37

Close to 300 villages in Ho Pang, Mong Mai, Man Hpang, Nahparn, Pang Yang, and Pang Wai townships in the northern Wa area were selected for whole or partial resettlement, as were some Wa communities inside China’s Yunnan Province.38 Some villages were strategically chosen for resettlement to make way for extraction of natural resources there. For example, Yawng Parit and Aik Soi villagers were evicted by local Wa leaders and Chinese business persons who wanted to mine the area’s rich silver deposits.39 Some did not receive any forewarning, and all were forced to abandon their possessions without any compensation. Communities had to sever their ties with their ancestral lands, and during the exodus, many family members were separated, as some were left behind. The majority of resettled Wa were moved in trucks, but many were forced to travel on foot for over two months, with some dying on the arduous mountain journey.40 Later reports stated that families from China were moving into the vacated villages.41

Resettled Wa occupied land around existing villages in Mong Hsat, Mong Ton, and Tachilek Townships. Each family was given rice and some monetary support by the UWSP, but unaccustomed to the new surroundings and warmer climate in low-lying valley areas, many fell ill. In 2000 alone, it is estimated than over 10,000 resettled Wa died from malaria and other diseases.42 Social services were lacking, as schools and hospital facilities were woefully inadequate to meet the needs of locals.43 Resettled communities also have suffered numerous human rights abuses.

In addition, this influx has displaced native residents and forced other problems onto the villagers already living in those areas.44 The arrival of the Wa greatly intensified population pressures on the environment and seriously disrupted the livelihood and food security of more than 48,000 Shan, Lahu, Akha, and other ethnic and indigenous villagers already living in southern Shan State. Newcomers stole locals’ fruits, vegetables, and livestock. In addition, the SPDC confi scated the property of the original inhabitants and pushed them off their lands to accommodate Wa leaders. One villager commented that “land which Shan, Lahu, Akha and Palaung had been cultivating for generations [to grow] rice, oranges, tea, garlic, chillies [sic], [and] sugar cane [were taken by the SPDC and the Wa]. The forests, wildlife area, spirit houses […] nothing was spared.”45

Local SPDC and Wa officials are reluctant to enforce a sincere drug ban because of lucrative opium taxes and profits from drug trafficking. With the arrival of the Wa, local communities were further oppressed, as they had to pay taxes to yet another group, the UWSA. Local villagers had to pay 250 Thai baht and 10 ticals (0.16 kilograms) of rice a year to the UWSA. This was on top of the rice already taken by the SPDC. Previously, Wa settlers have had to give 10 ticals of opium, two tins of rice, and 200 baht a year to the USWA. People who complained were made to perform forced labor for the UWSA. In addition, resettled Wa are also becoming involved in the growing amphetamine trade as well. Many are lured by the high wages of couriering drugs into Thailand, and in the process, become addicted as well. 46

The inundation of resettled Wa in southern Shan State has put enormous pressure on limited lands and natural resources and crowded out many local communities. Increasing extortion and human rights abuses have sparked the exodus of the area’s original inhabitants. One Lahu villager said, “When I left the village I couldn’t take anything with me, except for a few blankets. The Wa wouldn’t let me take anything else. By the time I left there were no Lahu left in our village at all. Everyone else had run away, and the Wa had moved into their old houses. Everyone scattered in different directions.” 47 LNDO found that at least 4,500 of the original residents of southern Shan State have moved to other areas of Burma. Another 4,000 have fled to Thailand, where the majority of illegal migrants from Shan State are constantly harassed by immigration officials and relegated to low-paying dirty, dangerous, and difficult work.48

Instead of providing alternative vocational training, drug prevention programs, and education to resettled communities, the SPDC and UWSP continue to perpetuate the drug trade by encouraging the Wa to plant new poppy fields. With the relocation of the Wa, opium cultivation has also shifted from traditional poppy growing areas in the Wa and Kokang regions in northern Shan State to southern Shan State, where farmers have started growing multiple poppy crops a year.49 The UWSA told villagers that they could continue to grow opium for three years, while the SPDC told them they could plant opium out of view. Because of this explicit and implicit support, new Wa settlers planted large tracts of opium and were allowed to freely sell it. Local Lahu, Akha, and Shan villagers, on the other hand, are allowed to sell their opium only to the Wa army.50 Ethnic tensions have heightened, as SPDC officials have clearly given preferential treatment to the support base of their ceasefire partner, the UWSA. While the SPDC has successfully put an end to military conflict with the Wa and assuaged Wa leaders—at least for the time being—this has happened at the expense of marginalizing other ethnic nationalities in Shan State.

Forced Relocation of Other Ethnic Groups

In 2002, the order to relocate highland communities in southern Shan State was issued, ostensibly to curb local production of opium. LNDO suspects that the real motive behind such relocations is to wrestle territory away from SSA-S control. Many villagers did not voluntarily move at first, and were expelled only when SPDC troops came into their area. Military presence is often temporary and based on rotational deployment, so displacement also followed this cycle. Villagers were typically given three days to move under penalty of torture and physical punishment. They could not take all their possessions or livestock, and sometimes they returned to collect the rest of their belongings and animals, only to find them taken or eaten by the SPDC.

In 2002, 80 Palaung were pushed from Mong Tha Lung to Mong Phoon. Thirty villagers were displaced from same community in 2004, and 50 more in 2006. Sometimes, villagers secretly returned to their former homes, just to be displaced by new military movements again. In 2006, 200 villagers of a small Lahu subgroup found only in eastern Shan State were forced from their homes north of Tachilek to move to Mong Hai Valley by the SPDC field commander in Tachilek. A quarter of them died from malaria, prompting a large portion of them to move again. Some clandestinely moved back. Of the survivors, only 30 remain in Mong Hai. Ironically, many Wa relocation areas are even more suitable to grow poppy than regions where locals previously occupied.51

Crop Substitution Programs

The SPDC has implemented various crop substitution programs, some with foreign assistance. Many of them have had disastrous results for local livelihoods and the environment. In 2002, the SPDC’s Northeastern Command began its 15-year “New Destiny” anti-narcotic crop substitution campaign in Shan, Kachin, Karenni, and Chin States. Under this program, farmers were encouraged to trade their poppies for seeds of substitution crops such as rice, which was the largest component, wheat, maize, sunflower, oranges, tea, and corn.52 Chinese Hsin shweli (sometimes spelled Sinn shweli) rice strains were forcibly introduced even though it was not suited for farming conditions in Shan State, resulting in years of poor harvests.53

Customarily, farmers in Shan State cultivate only one rice crop a year during the rainy season. The rest of the year, farmers grow crops like chili, onion, soybean, and garlic, which form a central part in their traditional diet and can also be sold for income. Under the New Destiny project, however, farmers are ordered to plant two rice crops a year. Many farmers lost the dry season crops under the project, and some lost their monsoon harvests as well.54 In 2002, authorities in Muse ordered that 200 acres of paddy in Muse be planted with the hsin shweli in the dry season. As hsin shweli is suited for planting in the rainy season, the rice seedlings died, and locals lost the whole crop.

By local decree, fixed areas of rice fields were reserved for the double-cropping of hsin shweli rice. Official Agriculture Ministry statistics indicate that in 2007, more than 40 percent of the rice grown in northern Shan State was hsin shweli. It is grown in Kokang, Lashio, Hsenwi, Kyaukme, Muse, and Hsipaw Townships, and in the UWSA’s Special Region No. 2. Farmers are usually forced to pay for these seeds, and while Burma’s Agriculture Bank gives farmers 17,300 kyat per hectare per year to grow the hybrid rice, the actual annual cost per hectare is between 543,000 and 736,000 kyat, including all inputs. Also, farmers are sold genetically modified terminator seeds which do not provide viable offspring, so locals must buy new seeds every year, adding additional financial burdens.55

While the hybrid rice can have 15 to 20 percent greater yields than traditional rice varieties, this can be achieved only through higher water consumption and heavy use of expensive and harmful chemical fertilizers and pesticides. All across Shan State, villagers are being forced to buy unsuitable seeds, fertilizers, and other equipment like tractors, furthering their plunge into hunger, debt, and poverty.56 Farmers unable to pay their debts for seeds and other inputs must sell their lands to the very ones who sold them the fertilizers and pesticides. There have reportedly been no government efforts to train farmers how to grow the new rice, and the instructions for fertilizers and pesticides are in Chinese, unreadable by most villagers in Shan State. Farmers are only told to spray six kinds of pesticides six times within 120 days. Without proper instructions and precautions, farmers have fallen ill and a few have died after improperly using the chemicals.57 In the end, the rice is not produced for local food security, but sold en masse to China.58 While farmers are being displaced from their lands and forced deeper into poverty, SPDC, Chinese businesses people, and ceasefire and militia groups are profiting from the buying and selling of seeds, fertilizers, pesticides, and rice.59

Since farmers are unable to earn enough from these crop substitution programs to buy rice and other foodstuffs for themselves, the UN World Food Program has been distributing rice to farmers in northern Shan State since 2004. “The SPDC says it is [promoting] poppy substitution…for self-sufficiency,” states independent Burmese researcher Hkun Seng, “but the local people’s lives are not improving and many survive day by day.”60

An effort by the Japan International Cooperation Agency to help villagers switch to growing buckwheat for Japanese consumers has largely failed due to a local militia’s misappropriation of seeds, trucks, and other equipment, low yields, and the inability of farmers to transport crops in a timely manner before they rotted.61 Some farmers have reported that SPDC soldiers have encouraged them to replace their rice crops with opium. They are told that if farmers grow rice, it needs to be milled and some of it will be expropriated by insurgent groups. Villagers are told to grow opium so that the military’s agents can buy it. With the money earned, communities can then buy rice.62

Social and Health Problems

As the military government continues to benefit from the drug trade, it has not made any serious effort to deal with increased poverty, migration, and other social and health impacts drugs have inflicted on local populations. Further, there has been a dangerous shift away from local traditional practices of smoking opium to injecting heroin, a practice that is more addictive and poses greater health risks like HIV/AIDS, especially in Upper Burma.63 64 Amphetamines also have replaced opium as a drug of choice. In addition to being forced to produce drugs, locals also suffer the devastating effects of opium and amphetamine use and addiction. LNDO found in 2003 that along the southern section of the Mekong in Burma, more than half of villagers—including children—are addicted to drugs, mainly amphetamines.65 The SPDC has not implemented any public health awareness and education campaigns against drug abuse, a failure contributing to heightened drug addiction amongst locals, and the absence of formal state-sponsored drug treatment centers has pushed many communities to establish their own.66

 

3. The Upper Mekong Navigation Improvement Project

“Development projects along the Mekong River are not for the benefit of

the local people here. They only take place so that big cities become richer

and richer. We are falling deeper and deeper into poverty. The old customs

and heritage that have belonged to us for centuries are disappearing as

well.”

- Lahu Elder, Keng Larb, eastern Shan State

To boost regional trade, an ongoing project meant to improve navigation on the Mekong River broke ground in 2002. It is rife with controversy, however: benefits are inequitably distributed amongst stakeholders, and local villagers are bearing a disproportionate share of the negative environmental and social impacts from the project. Further environmental damage has occurred as a direct result of other development projects undertaken by the Burma Army, ceasefire groups, and business elites.

In March 2002, Chinese demolition crews began blasting rapids and reefs along a 234-kilometer segment of the Mekong which lies between Guan Lei Port, China, and the Golden Triangle, the area where Burma, Laos, and Thailand converge. Along this stretch, the Mekong varies in depth, width, and flow, from a slow meandering water body to a quick and dangerous current filled with rocks, rapids, shoals, and whirlpools. Year-round navigation along this section of the Mekong is possible only for vessels of 60 tons or less. By destroying major rapids and reefs, the project seeks to facilitate increased regional trade by enabling larger shipping vessels up to 500 tons to travel year-round from China’s Yunnan Province to Luang Prabang in Laos.

The blasting was part of the Upper Mekong Navigation Improvement Project, a component of the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS) Economic Cooperation Program.67 Plans for the Navigation Improvement Project were conceived in the early 1990s and finalized and approved by the Burmese, Chinese, Laotian, and Thai governments in early 2002. The project is divided into three phases68 The first phase, which ran from March 2002 to April 2003, sought to remove 11 major rapids and 10 scattered reefs, mostly along the Burmese-Lao stretch of the river, to enable vessels of 100-150 tons to navigate the river for at least 95% of the year. Under the second phase, 51 rapids and shoals on the Burmese-Lao border and one reef on the Thai-Lao stretch of the river were slated to be blasted to allow vessels 300 tons or larger to navigate the river for 95% of the year. For the last phase, the waterway is to be channelized, making it navigable for vessels of 500 tons for at least 95% of the year.

It is unclear to what extent rapids have actually been destroyed, given problems with initial phases of the blasting and lack of public disclosure. Blasting was put on hold in June 2007, and Phase 2 is not completed. Because of closed-door and nontransparent decision-making, it is impossible to know for certain what led to the project’s suspension, but plausible explanations include disagreements between Chinese engineers and the Laotian Government concerning widening certain parts of the Mekong, problems related to ADB funding, and failure to pay demolition workers’ wages.

Map Mekong reef blasting

Figure 2: Map of Mekong reef-blasting project area

Environmental and Social Impacts

The navigation project began without any public announcements or warnings and with little regard of the consequences for indigenous communities. So far, there has been no consultation with the more than 22,000 Lahu, Akha, Shan, Sam Tao (Loi La), En and other ethnic and indigenous peoples who live in this isolated, mountainous stretch of the river. Reef blasting has precipitated not only environmental degradation, but also adverse effects on local livelihoods including various human rights abuses committed by the SPDC. Thai and international environmentalists have been calling for a halt to the project until proper social and environmental impact assessments are conducted with active participation of local populations.

The Mekong is home to around 200 fish species, some of which are endangered, including the Mekong Freshwater Stingray and the Mekong Giant Catfish.69 The rapids and shoals are nesting areas for several bird species in the dry season, and serve as vital spawning and feeding grounds for fish and provide habitat for aquatic plants such as Mekong seaweed. Blasting destroyed fragile fish habitat and spawning grounds. Increased navigation and trade on the Mekong means that forests along the riverbank suffer. Logging, over-hunting by commercial hunters, and habitat destruction on the land and in the river has seriously hurt local food security. One Akha villager lamented, “There are no more animals, no more forests, and no more fish in the river. Before, you could find deer and boar. But now, you can’t even find their footprints.”70

Blasting on Mekong River

Blasting on the Mekong River has many environmental impacts

The blasting also has caused considerable social impacts for villagers living along the river who fish and collect river flora for sale. Lahu fisherfolk generally fish in side streams and tributaries, not in the river mainstream, because the majority of them do not have appropriate fishing gear for the Mekong River. Unlike their Shan and Akha neighbors, Lahu fishers usually catch fish with their bare hands, and sometimes they use a small mesh casting net or a small fish trap made of bamboo. Some Lahu earn their living by fishing all day and night.

Fishing on Saturday remains an old Lahu tradition, usually done as a fun family outing. At the end of the day, the caught fish are divided equally among everyone. Initial blasting led to a serious decline in fish stocks, and fish catches have not returned to normal. One villager in Paw Taw on the Lao side of the Mekong stated, “I am only able to catch a few fish after the reefs were blasted. Now it is hard to make a living. In the past, everybody was happy with their catch, because they could usually get many different kinds of big fish. Now it’s different.” Keng Larb is one of the reef blasting base camps established in 2002 and located 100 kilometers upstream from the Golden Triangle. A Shan fisherman from the area explained ruefully, “There were a lot of dead fish floating down the river in the summer of 2003 [after the first phase of blasting].” Further, after blasting, local fishing and boating communities are not familiar with the new water flow patterns and locations of rapids. Their traditionally-used river routes have been destroyed, so instead of being able to travel directly between two points along the river, they must accustom themselves to and navigate distinctly new water currents, often skipping the intermediary points on the riverbanks for safety before they reach their final destinations.

Other environmental impacts include increased water pollution from larger ships that release human waste and oil and stir up sediment with their propellers. In addition, the removal of rapids and shoals has caused unnatural changes in water flow and has increased riverbank erosion. Villagers who grow vegetables along riverbanks in the dry season risk losing these gardens due to flash floods, riverbank collapse, or the building of docks or embankments related to the navigation project.

In the summer months, the water level in the Mekong River is too low to allow large ships to pass. The Chinese must open the upstream Manwan, Dachaosan, and Jinghong (when completed) Dams to raise the water level to let ships pass. Villages like Sen Kha, located on the Pha La Law, a tributary located at the lower Nam Yawm, have experienced dangerous fl ash floods, while other villages have seen increasingly drier dry seasons with unusually low water levels that interrupt navigation.71 Both occurrences likely are related to the operation of dams upstream on China’s section of the Mekong. Upstream dams hold back water that ships downstream need to cross blasted reefs and shallow sections of the river. Ironically, upstream damming in China may make the downstream Shan-Laotian segment of the Mekong much more difficult for large Chinese ships that are supposed to benefit from reef blasting to navigate because the dams make the water levels low and unpredictable.

River of Death, not River of Life

Local community members interviewed by LNDO stated that they learned of the blasting only when Chinese demolition crews arrived by boat and began preparations. By December 2002, eleven “demolition sites” had been established along the river. A calendar in Chinese, Laotian, Burmese, and Thai languages indicating the blasting schedule was distributed to cargo boat captains in December 2002, but not to local communities. In the end, to accommodate cargo boat owners who demanded more time to transport their goods, Chinese blasting teams did not follow the blasting timetable. Blasting times became more unpredictable. While this provided flexibility for cargo ship owners and operators, it also created more dangerous conditions for local small boats. No one could be sure when blasting would actually take place except those with hand-held radios who were able to receive timely warning messages.

Small boat on Mekong

A small boat navigates the Mekong

During the initial blasting period, on December 31, 2002, seven Lahu villagers drowned when their small boat capsized in the wake of large Chinese boats on the Mekong. From December 2002 to April 2003, boat traffic was officially opened only one out of every four days. The heavy river traffic on these days meant that more mishaps of this kind would occur. Today, cargo ships up to 15 meters tall—mostly Chinese—run between Guan Lei Port, China, and Chiang Saen, Northern Thailand. As bigger cargo boats begin to use the Mekong, smaller passenger and fishing boats face dire consequences. They are forced to sail close to the bank or wait behind protective rocks while bigger boats move through. Smaller boats are sometimes suddenly caught by huge waves that lift them a meter into the air, often capsizing or destroying them.

Once the Mekong becomes navigable for big boats all year round, the waterway will become more dangerous for small boats, with a heightened probability of accidents. The lives of local people who rely on small watercraft for everyday trade and travel will be seriously impacted. In addition, maintaining a viable navigation channel in the Mekong will require constant and extensive dredging. Channeling of the Mekong will significantly reduce resistance to stream flow, which means faster current, reduced water retention, higher risks of floods and droughts, and shorter productive planting seasons.72 Already, whirlpools between Tang Salum and Sop Lwe have become stronger after blasting. After partial blasting at the Lower Tang Salum Rapid, the water current there became much faster as well.

After reef destruction, irregular siltation occurred at the upper Nam Yawn and the upper Sop Lwe River mouths, and because of this, minimum safety regulations for shipping have not been met. Ships passing these areas do not dare to travel along the newly dredged channel but still sail along the original shipping route. Some large cargo ships have also capsized after crashing into partially blasted rocks.

Large boat mekong

A large boat used in dynamiting the rapids waits for higher water on the Mekong

Militarization and Human Rights Abuses

In 2002, there were 11 SPDC battalions in the region. By early 2009, there were 20. After the blasting began, the SPDC launched a major military operation along the west bank of the Mekong from January to April 2003. About 1,000 troops from ten battalions based in Keng Tung, Mong Phyak, Mong Yawng, Ta Lerh, and Tachilek, including five new battalions under the #18 Triangle Region Command, were sent to patrol along the riverbank during that time. Villagers were told that the operation aimed to crack down on drugs, but many local people interviewed commented that no drug-related arrests or drug seizures took place. They suspect that the real objective of the operation was to provide security for the blasting. When the SPDC patrols entered their communities, villagers suffered increased restrictions on their movement. SPDC commanders began keeping a record of people entering and leaving villages and issued orders to headmen in villages along the river telling them not to stray outside the immediate vicinity of their villages “for their own safety” during the operation.73

When blasting began in December 2002, villagers living along the Mekong River were prohibited by local SPDC military units from traveling along the riverbank. They had to request permission from SPDC troops to access the river, even for fishing. They were also told that no strangers were allowed within three miles of the riverbank or else they would be arrested. Although the SPDC did not state that these measures were related to the blasting, villagers suspected this was the case because they had never been given such orders before. These restrictions on movement caused severe hardships for villagers whose livelihoods depend on the river. Unable to cope with such strict limitations, many affected Lahu and ethnic nationalities in the area have been forced to migrate and seek alternative occupations elsewhere. Such development-induced displacement has led to loss of traditional cultural practices, disintegration of communities, and family breakdowns. LNDO interviewed a Lahu fisherman from Ta Be Village near Keng Larb who migrated to Mae Sai, Thailand. He explained his reasons for giving up his traditional lifestyle for life in the city as a day laborer.

“I [used to earn] my living from fishing in the Mekong, just as my parents

did before me. Before, I could fish at any time, day or night. But starting

in December 2002, I had to get permission from the Burmese soldiers if

I wanted to fish during the day. Sometimes I […] got permission to fi sh

[only] once a week. At night it was completely forbidden. Before, if I didn’t

manage to catch fish during the daytime, I could go at night. But when I

was not allowed to fish at night, I couldn’t catch enough to earn a living.

That’s why I had to migrate to find other work.” 74

 

The SPDC typically conscripts porters during military operations along the banks of the Mekong in fighting against the Shan State Army-South, an insurgent armed group. In 2005, highland Lahu villagers were driven en masse down to the lowlands and forced to work on constructing a 50-mile road from Ta Lerh to Keng Larb. The road is slated to extend to Xieng Kok, Laos. At time of writing, the road has yet to be finished.

Since 2004, locals have been forced to cut trees to build six bridges across the Mekong’s tributaries for this road project. The goal is to develop Keng Larb, which is located on the Mekong, into a regional transportation and trade hub. Keng Larb used to be a small Shan-Akha village with approximately 700 families. Now it is a center for drug-running, illegal logging, and human trafficking. In addition, Keng Larb is fast becoming a booming market for illegal, exotic animals and wildlife products bound for China, putting greater pressure on the region’s endangered and threatened animals such as tigers, bears, and pangolins.

Illegal Logging and Along the Mekong

“[Logging] is the biggest mistake we’ve made. We’ve destroyed our environment.”

- Bao Youxiang, leader of the UWSA75

Illegal logging, drug-trafficking, human trafficking, and trade of endangered animals has boomed since the blasting began. Bigger boats can now navigate the river, access previously untouched hardwood forests, and take forest resources straight to market. LNDO has obtained various reports revealing that SPDC troops are responsible for massive logging along the river.

Loggers

Logging has destroyed many forests in Shan State

Bear cub sale

Live bear cubs being sold to wildlife traffickers

While villagers forced into the lowlands are prohibited from cutting down trees to establish farms, they are made to work on Chinese rubber plantations in areas such as Keng Larb and Tachilek. Hongyu, a Chinese company, currently has more than 200,000 acres of rubber farms and is developing more. Contract farms such as these are created on the confiscated lands of villagers and contribute to the sharp increase in forest degradation. In eastern Shan State, logging companies run by drug cartels and ceasefire groups as well as the Htoo Trading Company and other organizations with ties to the SPDC are responsible for massive deforestation in the area.76 Thai-owned Siva Commerce Limited Partnership also operates in the area to meet cross-border demand for teak. According to a Global Witness Report, “the local population has benefited very little in economic terms [from logging and development projects], but the rich [drug lords and military authorities] have enriched themselves.”77 One villager from Mann Koe Township said, “I’m so angry that these powerful businesspeople have taken control our lands and our lives. I feel like our forests will be gone in one or two years.”78

After almost two decades of unregulated logging, only one small parcel of teak forest remains in eastern Shan State, in the hills of northern Mong Ton Township. Since early 2006, these last stands of teak (mainly red, but also some black) have been fast disappearing. Timber companies who do not log themselves, subcontract to other entrepreneurs, mostly Chinese, to carry out logging in their concession areas.79 Local Burma Army officials have reached an agreement with Chinese companies involved in illegal logging around Keng Larb, allowing the latter to use free forced labor as well. Many of the logs that are supposed to be used for bridges are being sold illegally by the SPDC to the Chinese.

Logs waiting for export

Logs near Tachilek waiting to be exported

Forced labor for logging takes away precious time villagers need to tend their own crops and carry on with their livelihoods, resulting in lower agricultural yields, missed economic opportunities, and significantly increased poverty. Furthermore, Burma Army troops are required to “live off the land” or be self-reliant for food, so they often steal crops, livestock, cooking utensils and other necessities from nearby communities. Money is commonly also extorted as well.

In addition, SPDC troops regularly commit rape and other sexual violence not only along the Mekong, but all across Shan State. The Shan Human Rights Foundation and the Shan Women’s Action Network have detailed the experiences of 625 women and girls raped by SPDC soldiers in Shan State between 1996 and 2001.80 Some of the cases were from Mong Yawn, Tachilek, and surrounding areas along the Mekong.81 In 2007, two Akha girls were raped in Nam Si Village. These numbers are likely to be far lower than the actual number of rapes perpetrated against local communities, as rape is commonly underreported due to the stigma attached to it.

 

4. Conclusion

As long as Burma remains under military rule and local communities are deprived of their democratic rights to participate in development decisions, increased development, trade, and investment along the Mekong River will only accelerate environmental destruction and reinforce the current inequitable and unsustainable development processes taking place in eastern Shan State.

SPDC-led drug eradication programs are mired in corruption, stir up ethnic tension, and actually perpetuate the drug trade. Poorly-conceived crop substitution schemes have led to local loss of food security, displacement, and, ironically, greater opium production. The state continues to ignore pursuing alternative livelihood options for traditional opium growers, and military officials have lined their own pockets by building a narco-state, a process that has forced people off their lands and deeper into poverty and hunger.

Likewise, while the Mekong Navigation Improvement Project benefits only a small group of business and military elite, it has caused severe environmental damage, shattering the livelihoods and culture of Lahu and other indigenous populations living along the Burma-Lao stretch of the Mekong and driving them into further poverty. These destructive and unsustainable development patterns will continue until peace and democracy are restored to Burma, militarization ends, and people are provided with real participatory decision-making powers concerning choices that affect their communities.

 

5. Recommendations: A Participatory Approach

In light of widespread environmental destruction, impacts on local livelihoods, and human rights abuses brought on both by SPDC collusion in the drug trade and repressive approaches towards poppy growers in Shan State, LNDO strongly urges national and local authorities, ceasefire groups, and insurgents to engage in establishing more humane and sustainable drug policies.82 In addition, there needs to be input from affected communities into drug policy debates. No crop substitution or other projects related to drug eradication should take place until viable alternative livelihoods are identified and selected by local stakeholders.

LNDO urges the governments of China, Laos, and Thailand, and the ruling regime in Burma to immediately suspend the navigation plan until proper environmental and social impact assessments are carried out with the participation of affected communities. A prerequisite for local participation is the restoration of genuine peace and democracy in Burma.

Indigenous communities in eastern Shan State are not interested in development projects that benefit the government and large companies and wholly ignore the needs and demands of locals. LNDO believes that a more pragmatic and effective strategy for building up the livelihoods of local peoples should first focus on improving educational quality and access. There are schools, but not enough teachers, books, or blackboards. The region’s drug trade has victimized chronic drug users for decades, and development-induced displacement and forced resettlement have led to greater environmental destruction, urban migration, human trafficking, and loss of culture. Without the free fl ow of information, critical thinking and community development skills, people are ill-equipped to empower themselves to identify their own problems and work for positive social change. Development plans must aim to resolve the problems of local Lahu, Shan, Akha, Palau, and En villagers in eastern Shan State, not add to them.

Lastly, LNDO urges foreign governments and international funding agencies to withhold support for all development projects inside Burma’s Shan State until a democratic system of government is installed which allows local people genuine participation in decision-making concerning development in their area.

 

About the Lahu National Development Organization (LNDO)

LNDO was set up by leading Lahu democracy activists in March 1997 to advocate for the welfare and well-being of the Lahu people, including the promotion of alternatives to destructive development projects and opium cultivation. LNDO seeks to protect the livelihoods and lands of Lahu and Akha peoples and to increase understanding among the local ethnic nationalities about human rights, democracy, federalism, community development, and health issues. LNDO also aims to develop unity and cooperation among the Lahu and other highlanders from Shan State and to provide opportunities for development of civic leadership skills among local groups.

Email: lndo@loxinfo.co.th

 

References:

1 Usa Pichai, “Environmentalists worried over Impact of Mekong Damming,” Mizzima, 27 Apr. 2009, at: <http://www.mizzima.com/news/inside-burma/2021-environmentalists-worried-over-impact-of-mekong-damning. html>. Last accessed 30 Jul. 2009.

2 R. Waddington, “The Lahu,” Peoples of the World Foundation website, 2002, at: <http://www.peoplesoftheworld. org/text?people=Lahu>. Last accessed 26 September 2008.

3 Jane’s World Insurgency and Terrorism, “Shan State Army-South (SSA-S) (Myanmar),” 23 Sept. 2008, at: <http://www.janes.com/extracts/extract/jwit/jwita040.html>. Last accessed 15 Dec. 2008. The SSA-S split from the Shan State Army after the Shan State Army surrendered to the SPDC. The SSA-S leadership became disaffected with the Shan State Army’s emphasis on the drug trade and continues the struggle for an autonomous drug-free Shan State. The 5,000-strong SSA-S is considered by many as the legitimate representative of the local people. The UWSA is the armed wing of the United Wa State Party. With an estimated 20,000 troops, it is one of the largest ethnic armed groups in Burma. It signed a ceasefi re agreement with the SPDC in 1989. The UWSA controls the Wa territory in northern Shan State.

4 Richard Humphries, “Myanmar’s Shan State: a complex tragedy,” The Japan Times, 30 April 2001, at: <http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/eo20010430a1.html>. Last accessed 15 Dec. 2008.

5 The MNDAA is comprised of several hundred Kokang troops. It has a ceasefi re with the Burmese government. The Shan State Army splintered after is leader and drug lord Khun Sa surrendered to the SPDC in December 1995.

6 Lawi Weng, “Is UWSA Preparing for Clash with Junta?”, The Irrawaddy, 11 Dec. 2008, at: <http://www.irrawaddy.org/article.php?art_id=14779>. Last accessed 15 Dec. 2008. The Burmese military government wants the UWSA to move to assuage the Thai government, which has complained about the persistent fl ow of opium from Wa-controlled areas into Thailand.

7 Ibid.

8 U.S. Department of State Bureau for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, International Narcotics Control Strategy Report 2008, March 2008. An estimated 90% of the world’s opium is produced in Afghanistan. 5% of the global supply in grown in Southeast Asia, mostly in Burma, states the UN Offi ce on Drugs and Crime. <http://www.state.gov/p/inl/rls/nrcrpt/2008/vol1/html/100780.htm>. Last accessed 31 Oct. 2008.

9 Humphries, supra note 4.

10 U.S. Department of State Bureau for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, International Narcotics Control Strategy Report 2006, March 2006, at: <http://www.state.gov/p/inl/rls/nrcrpt/2006/vol1/ html/62110.htm>. Last accessed 29 Oct. 2008.

11 Transnational Institute, Withdrawal Symptoms: Changes in the Southeast Asian Drugs Market, August 2008, p.5. [Hereinafter “Withdrawal Symptoms”].

12 United Nations Offi ce on Drugs and Crime website, “UNODC Projects in Myanmar: Supply Reduction,” at: <http://www.unodc.org/myanmar/en/supply_reduction.html>. Last accessed 29 Oct. 2008.

13 Shan Herald Agency for News, Show Business: Rangoon’s “War on Drugs” in Shan State, Dec. 2003, at: <http://www.shanland.org/resources/bookspub/drugs/show_business.htm>. Last accessed 15 Dec. 2008. [Hereinafter “Show Business”].

14 Show Business.

15 Withdrawal Symptoms.

16 INCS Report 2008, supra note 8.

17 Ibid.

18 Chad Bouchard, “Opium Cultivation Blossoms in Burma,” Voice of America, 12 Oct. 2007, at: <http://www.voanews.com/english/archive/2007-10/2007-10-12-voa10.cfm>. Last accessed 29 Oct. 2008.

19 Show Business.

20 U Ne Oo, “Strange Silence of OSS about ATS,” at <http://www.burmalibrary.org/reg.burma/archives/200002/msg00087.html>. Last accessed 29 Oct. 2008.

21 Show Business.

22 LNDO Interview #2, Thai-Burmese border, 14 Dec. 2008.

23 Withdrawal Symptoms, p. 10.

24 Lahu National Development Organization, Aftershocks Along Burma’s Mekong: Reef-blasting and militarystyle development in eastern Shan State, Aug. 2003, p.30, at: <http://www.burmalibrary.org/docs/Aftershocks. html>. [Hereinafter “Aftershocks”]. 150 Burma Environmental Working Group

25 Steve Hirsch, “Interview with UNODC Myanmar Representative Jean-Luc Lemahieu,” Asian Tribune, 9 Dec. 2003, at: <http://www.shanland.org/resources/bookspub/drugs/asian_tribune.htm/>. Last accessed 29 Oct. 2008.

26 Show Business.

27 Viss is a weight unit used In Burma. 100 tical make up one viss (about 1.63 kilogram).

28 Show Business.

29 Tical is a weight unit used in Burma. One tical is about 0.0163 kilograms (0.0360 pounds). 100 tical equals one viss.

30 Lahu National Development Organization, “Drug Country: Another opium season in eastern Shan State sees increased cultivation, multiple cropping, and a new form of an old drug,”in Undercurrents: Monitoring Development on Burma’s Mekong, Issue 3, Apr. 2009, at p.12.

31 DVB, “Army’s opium taxation forays lead to clashes,” 19 Jan 2009, at: <http://democracyforburma.wordpress.com/2009/01/19/army%E2%80 %99s-opium-taxation-forays-led-to-clashes/>. Last accessed 17 Feb. 2009.

32 Supra note 26, LNDO interview #2.

33 Ibid.

34 Ibid.

35 “General Background of the Wa” in Unsettling Moves: The Wa resettlement program in Eastern Shan State (1999-2001), April 2002, at <http://www.shanland.org/resources/bookspub/humanrights/wa/general_background_ of_the_wa.htm>. Last accessed 10 Nov. 2008. [Hereinafter “Unsettling Moves”].

36 “The Rationale” in Unsettling Moves, at: <http://www.shanland.org/resources/bookspub/humanrights/wa/ rationale.htm>. Last accessed 10 Nov. 2008.

37 Unsettling Moves, Executive Summary at: <http://www.shanland.org/resources/bookspub/humanrights/wa/executive_summary.htm>. Last accessed 5 Nov. 2008.

38 “Choices of villages to be resettled” in Unsettling Moves at: <http://www.shanland.org/resources/bookspub/humanrights/wa/choice_of_villages_to_be_resettl.htm>. Last accessed 10 Nov. 2008.

39 Ibid.

40 Unsettling Moves Executive Summary at: <http://www.shanland.org/resources/bookspub/humanrights/wa/executive_summary.htm>. Last accessed 5 Nov. 2008.

41 “The vacated villages” in Unsettling Moves at: <http://www.shanland.org/resources/bookspub/humanrights/wa/vacated_villages.htm>. Last accessed 10 Nov. 2008.

42 “Sickness and death” in Unsettling Moves at: <http://www.shanland.org/resources/bookspub/humanrights/wa/sickness_and_death.htm>. Last accessed 10 Nov. 2008.

43 “Conclusion and Recommendations” in Unsettling Moves at: <http://www.shanland.org/resources/bookspub/humanrights/wa/conclusion_and_recommendations.htm>. Last accessed 10 Nov. 2008.

44 Unsettling Moves Executive Summary at: <http://www.shanland.org/resources/bookspub/humanrights/wa/executive_summary.htm>. Last accessed 5 Nov. 2008.

45 “Effects on Original Inhabitants in the South” in Unsettling Moves at: <http://www.shanland.org/resources/bookspub/humanrights/wa/effects_on_original_inhabitants_.htm>. Last accessed 10 Nov. 2008.

46 “Opium growing” in Unsettling Moves at: <http://www.shanland.org/resources/bookspub/humanrights/wa/opium_growing.htm>. Last accessed 10 Nov. 2008.

47 “Original Inhabitants” in Unsettling Moves.

48 Unsettling Moves Executive Summary, at: <http://www.shanland.org/resources/bookspub/humanrights/wa/executive_summary.htm>. Last accessed 5 Nov. 2008. See also, Feraya Nangmone, “The Exploitation, Imprisonment and Repatriation of Tai (Shans) in Thailand,” 16 Jul. 2007 at: <http://www.tai-nation.org/en/articles/67/1/ The-Exploitation-Imprisonment-and-Repatriation-of-Tai-Shans-in-Thailand/Page1.html>.

49 Withdrawal Symptoms, p.10.

50 “Opium growing” in Unsettling Moves at: <http://www.shanland.org/resources/bookspub/humanrights/wa/opium_growing.htm>. Last accessed 10 Nov. 2008

51 LNDO Interview #3, Thai-Burmese Border, 17 Feb. 2009.

52 Clifford McCoy, “Seeds of evil growing in Myanmar,” Asia Times Online, 23 Aug. 2007, at: <http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Southeast_Asia/IH23Ae01.html>. Last accessed 4 Nov. 2008.

53 Hsin Shweli is the generic name given to hybrid rice seeds imported mainly from southwestern China. These seeds include many Chinese strains that are not native to Burma.

54 Show Business.

55 McCoy, supra note 51.

56 Show Business.

57 McCoy, supra note 51. Burma Environmental Working Group 151

58 McCoy, supra note 51. Collusion between SPDC offi cials and Chinese business persons in the rice trade is extensive.

59 Ibid.

60 McCoy, supra note 51.

61 Show Business.

62 Dennis Bernstein and Leslie Kean, “People of the Opiate: Burma’s Dictatorship of Drugs,” The Nation, Vol. 263. 16 Dec. 1996, at: <http://nick.assumption.edu/WebVAX/Nation/Bernstein16Dec96.html>. Last accessed 29 October 2008.

63 Bureau for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, US Department of State. International Narcotics Control Strategy Report 2006. March 2006, at: <http://www.state.gov/p/inl/rls/nrcrpt/2006/vol1/ html/62110.htm>. Last accessed 29 Oct. 2008.

64 Withdrawal Symptoms, p.10.

65 Aftershocks.

66 Show Business.

67 The Greater Mekong Subregion Economic Cooperation Program, Interim GMS Assistance Plan 2000-2002 (October 1999). The GMS program involves China, Burma, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia, and Viet Nam and is supported by the Asian Development Bank (ADB). It aims to stimulate economic growth in the greater Mekong region through increased trade, energy development and supply, tourism, and environmental protection.

68 Southeast Asia Rivers Network, Project for Rivers and Communities, et al., Mekong Rapids Under Fire, Oct 2002.

69 The Mekong Freshwater Stingray is known as Dasyatis laosensis, <http://iucnredlist.org/details/39407>, and the Mekong Giant Catfi sh is Pangasianodon gigas <http://iucnredlist.org/details/15944>.

70 LNDO Interview #1, 15 May 2003.

71 LNDO, “Deadly Changes: Unpredictable Water Surges and Unprecedented Low Water Levels on the Mekong have Human Costs,” in Undercurrents: Monitoring Development on Burma’s Mekong, Issue 2. July 2006, at pp. 9-10.

72 Tyson R. Roberts, “Downstream ecological implications of China’s Lancang Hydropower and Mekong Navigation project,” 2001, at p.3, available at: <http://www.internationalrivers.org/fi les/tyson%20roberts%20 paper%20on%20yunnan.pdf>. Last accessed 18 Feb. 2009.

73 Aftershocks, p.10.

74 LNDO Interview #1, 15 May 2003.

75 World Rainforest Movement, “Burma: Forests for Export to China,” World Rainforest Bulletin. No. 82. May 2004, at: <http://www.wrm.org.uy/bulletin/82/Burma.html>. Last accessed 16 Apr. 2009.

76 LNDO, “Even the last tree: Unrestricted logging leaves the hills of eastern Shan State bare” in Undercurrents: Monitoring Development on Burma’s Mekong, Issue 2. July 2006. p. 11, available at: <http://www.shanland.org/articles/environment/2006/Images/Undercurrents2.pdf>. Last accessed 3 Dec. 2008.

77 Sara Knight, “China sends out for Burmese logs,” Earth Island Journal, 2004, at: <http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_hb6393/is_/ai_n29110405>. Last accessed 15 Dec. 2008.

78 LNDO Interview #2, Thai-Burmese border, 14 Dec. 2008.

79 LNDO Interview #1, 15 May 2003.

80 Shan Human Rights Foundation and Shan Women’s Action Network, License to Rape, May 2002 at p.7., available at: <http://www.burmacampaign.org.uk/reports/License_to_rape.pdf>.

81 Ibid, p.5.

82 Withdrawal Symptoms, p.38.

 
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