Saturday, January 31, 2015

Freight and Logistics Groups Enter Myanmar but Horrendous Crimes Continue in the Country

As University Promotes the Cause of Commerce Burma Tries to Hide a Darker Side
Shipping News Feature

MYANMAR – At the first World Maritime University (WMU) Regional Conference which took place in the former Burmese capital of Yangon, the Myanmar Department of Marine Administration (DMA) signed a five year memorandum of understanding (MoU) to promote the role of Myanmar in the global freight and shipping industry and support the country’s seafaring students in academic fields. Many freight forwarders and logistics groups have recently entered the emerging Myanmar market and this only looks set to increase as it becomes a major sourcing country and consumer market for global freight customers in the near future.

The WMU and the DMA are now supporting post-graduate classes such as Master and PhD programmes. The classes are for under graduate, post graduate students as well as professional maritime courses and will facilitate maritime education, environmental management, and expand educational opportunities at WMU for students from Myanmar adding to the employment possibilities for incoming logistics interests.

The five-year agreement provides a platform for cooperation on e-learning and learning management systems, as well as the possibility of collaborating on joint research projects. The two will also join forces to prevent of oil spills, raise maritime safety issues, survey and update navigation aids in Myanmar territorial waters, and explore effective port and shipping management, environmental conservation, and maritime casualty investigations.

To date, there are 47 WMU graduates from Myanmar, many of whom work in the country’s governmental organisations and training institutions. Speaking at the conference, Acting President, World Maritime University, Neil Bellefontaine said:

"The opportunities for a country like Myanmar are still very large and the potential of growth of employment in the maritime sector, I think, very high. There are a large number of Myanmar seafarers in this field and the MoU will ensure the growth of employment opportunities and capacity for young students.”

The elephant in this particular room is of course the levels of unrest and violence which pervade Burmese society. Despite the opinion of many that the country is being ruled under martial law in anything but name, atrocities in outlying areas continue to surface. Recently two young women teachers were found raped and murdered in an area of Shan state governed by the Burmese Army and where around one thousand people have been trapped in their villages by troops. Despite official protestations of innocence local charities have wasted no time in pointing the finger of blame, going so far as to name the commanding officer of the troops responsible.

Our resident Burmese correspondent tells us that Maran Lu Ra, age 20 from Myikyina, and Tangbau Hkawn Nan Tsin, age 21, from Waingmaw, were working as volunteer teachers in the village of Kawng Kha Shabuk village, about 20 miles east of Muse town, in Northern Shan State. They had been sent there by the Kachin Baptist Convention about eight months ago. They taught at the village school, and stayed in a small bamboo house in the village church compound. No one else stayed in the compound, which was at the edge of the village.

After sporadic fighting in the region, at about 7am on January 19 about 30 Burmese Army troops from LIB 503, based in Kyaukme, led by Major Aung Soe Myint, arrived on foot at Kawng Kha Shabuk village, about 20 miles east of Muse town. They had come from the direction of Mong Ko, where there had been a military operation against the Kachin Independence Army in early January. The soldiers based themselves in four houses in different parts of the village, posting guards around the village within eyesight of each other. They maintained close guard of the entire village to ensure their security. In the evening there was a birthday party for the child of the village headman at his house, so the two teachers went to the party and returned back to their house at about 10pm at night.

Screams were heard during the night and most of the troops left early in the morning. Shortly after the women’s two bodies were found in their house. They had been beaten and stabbed to death and all the signs were they had been raped. Police were called and the bodies removed by ambulance. On January 21 around 400 troops arrived and set up camp in the village. We are told that locals have been warned there will be severe repercussions if any information is released to the media. The photographs which we have been sent to illustrate this crime are simply too horrendous to publish.

The recent murders, illustrated on this BBC video, came a week after talks between US and Burmese representatives on improving civil rights. Until Myanmar can show the world a truly settled society, with no groups excluded, persecuted and considered interlopers despite living in the country for several generations, the potential for violence, and even civil war, cannot be eradicated. Meanwhile the temptation of a possible burgeoning new market is proving irresistible to many logistics groups which may find themselves facing a moral conflict, not to say the real chance of encountering acts of violence, as many of Myanmar’s areas of conflict sit squarely on major transport and raw material supply routes.

Photo: The funeral of the two young teachers has attracted widespread media attention despite efforts to suppress it.