Lahu bulletin exposes China’s expanding influence in Golden Triangle

Lahu National Development Organization
Thursday, April 9, 2009

China’s growing interests in Burma’s eastern Shan State, from rubber plantations to wildlife trading, is bringing rapid destructive changes to local communities according to Undercurrents – Monitoring Development Along Burma’s Mekong, released by indigenous researchers today.

Demand for rubber in China is spurring a scramble to plant trees by the Burma Army, ceasefire groups, and militias. Under the banner of opium eradication, the Yunnan Hongyu Group from China is also establishing rubber plantations by employing forced labor after entire villages were forcibly relocated. However the bulletin confirms UN data that opium cultivation is increasing in Shan State.

“Rubber is being planted on every slope but farmers don’t know what they’ll eat” said Japhet Jakui, the director of the Lahu National Development Organization which authored the bulletin.

Wildlife trafficking is increasing to China and is now operating through Keng Larb, a new hub of trade on the Mekong River. Local Lahu villagers describe a dramatic decrease in the populations of elephants and tigers and the disappearance of gibbons. One hunter interviewed for the bulletin received US$20,000 for a single tiger carcass and skin.

China continues to construct a series of giant dams on the mainstream Mekong while downstream communities anxiously question what impacts will befall them. Unprecedented floods in August 2008 damaged thousands of acres of paddy farms.

The bulletin also provides updates on growing mining operations carried out with Chinese, Thai and Lao investment.

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