本周，中國政府官員在緬甸調查涉嫌非法伐木的中國公民被拘一事。往中國的非法木材銷售，特別是緬甸儲量日益減少的紅木，一直是個大問題。非政府組織環境調查署(Environmental Investigation Agency)警告，該樹種或在三年內滅絕。
緬甸的人民——正如那些抗議所表明的——想讓這種掠奪停止。這個國家需要尊重人權和環境的外國投資。遏制榨取資源、製造政治不穩定的腐敗和裙帶交易，這將取決於登盛總統(President Thein Sein)。
China’s exploding appetites have unleashed a wholesale looting of Myanmar’s valuable natural resources. While this often involves outright theft, it also comes in the form of crony capitalism. Myanmar’s military elite has deals with Chinese companies that are eager to exploit the land, with little concern for the environment or people. The Kachin Independence Army, a rebel group that controls part of northeastern Myanmar, also takes a cut of some of this trade with China, especially jade hacked out of the earth by impoverished, heroin-addicted laborers.
This week, Chinese government officials were in Myanmar to investigate the detention of Chinese citizens suspected of illegal logging. Illegal timber sales to China, especially of Myanmar’s dwindling stocks of rosewood, have been a big problem, with the Environmental Investigation Agency, a nongovernmental group, warning that the trees could be extinct within three years.
The pursuit of the valuable copper deposits in the country, formerly called Burma, has led to violence against Burmese who dare to object to the environmental and human costs. In 2012, the Myanmar police apparently used white phosphorus smoke bombs, usually reserved for warfare, to quell protesters angry over evictions to make room for the Letpadaung copper mine in central Myanmar, a joint venture between China’s Wanbao Mining company and the Myanmar military’s business arm. Last month, police officers opened fire on residents who were protesting evictions in the area, killing one woman with a shot to the head.China’s insatiable demand for tiger and leopard parts, bear bile and pangolins has helped to transform the town of Mong La, near the Chinese border, into a seedy center of animal trafficking, prostitution and gambling. Myanmar’s tiger population is by most estimates less than 70.
The people of Myanmar — as the protests make clear — want this plunder stopped. The country needs foreign investment that is respectful of human rights and the environment. It will be up to President Thein Sein to rein in the corruption and crony deals that are stripping away resources and creating political instability.