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Myanmar Corruption Plagues Highways, Jade Trade

Myanmar Drugs and Democracy

Myanmar Drugs and Democracy

Corruption continues to cut into the government treasury in Myanmar.

The southeast Asian nation – also known as Burma – has endured six decades of civil war. Some Burmese military officials profit from the secret jade trade to finance the conflict. Others use fraud and deception for financial gain along a new highway.

Myanmar’s jade industry is a tool of corruption. The precious green stone trade is worth more than $30 billion a year. That total is nearly half of the country’s gross domestic product, states a report from the London-based group, Global Witness.

The Global Witness report alleges the majority of the jade trade profits are linked to a select few. Ex-juntas – like former military ruler General Than Shwe - earn money from the trade. Other military figures and drug lords also make large profits.

Profits from jade mining and trading collected by the military funds the war against the rebels. Global Witness spokesperson Juman Kubba says little money ends up in the government’s hands.

Jade is also a main source of income for the rebels. The Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) gets revenue from timber, gold and jade. The KIO – like many in the country - also uses highway tolls to make money.

In the Karen state of Myanmar, a newly completed highway cuts travel times. The tolls make it expensive. The road is paved. It replaces a dangerous mountain trail.

Some residents are less than happy with the road. Landowners near the road say they have been cheated. One man claimed government officials and surveyors reduced the number of hectares he owned. He was then paid less for his land.

One man protested the deal. The government told him to accept the transaction. They said he could not post any type of information on the Internet.

The construction surprised merchants in Tha Ya Gon. Shop owners said signs appeared stating property now belonged to the government.

Today, the highway building pushes forward. Peace is fragile in the highway’s region. Territory is controlled by factions of the ethnic Karen army.

But residents and businessmen hope for peace.

Jim Dresbach adapted this story for Learning English. Kathleen Struck was the editor.


Words in This Story

endure – v. to continue to exist in the same state or condition

toll – n. an amount of money that you are required to pay for the use of a road or bridge

hectare – n. a unit of area in the metric system that is equal to 10,000 square meters or 2.47 acres

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