Some 60,000 people flee the city of Loikaw following clashes between Myanmar’s military and anti-coup rebels
Myanmar’s armed forces attacked ethnic militias over the weekend. Fighting was reported yesterday. Despite international sanctions, trade in timber continued in 2021.
Yangon (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Attacks by Myanmar’s military against anti-coup ethnic militias continue.
Last weekend, the military attacked Loikaw, Kayah state. Some 60,000 people fled the city, whose population had swelled to 90,000, seeking refuge in Shan State.
In Myawaddy province, along the border with Thailand, fighting continued yesterday with the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA).
“Most of the residents left the town for Shan state after rumours spread during the past three days that the military would bomb the city,” said Aung San Myint, spokesperson for the Karenni State Consultative Council, speaking to Radio Free Asia (RFA).
Following the attacks against the ethnic Karenni Army, the People’s Defense Force, and Karenni National Defense Force (KNDF), “about one-third of the population is left in town, and they are living in fear,” Aung added.
A spokesperson for the ruling military junta told RFA that such a mass exodus “would not have occurred if they didn’t attack us.”
“All of this started when they attacked a plane carrying passengers and COVID vaccines at Loikaw Airport,” he said, without elaborating.
Meanwhile, protests against the Myanmar timber trade continue.
After the coup d'état on 1 February, the United States imposed sanctions against trade in teak, which is controlled by state-owned enterprises and whose revenues go directly into the coffers of Myanmar generals.
However, business did not stop. Justice for Myanmar, a justice and accountability advocacy group, reports that nearly 1,600 tonnes of timber were shipped to US companies between February and November 2021.
“The timber arrived in 82 different shipments... largely consisting of teak board and scantling that are used for shipbuilding, outdoor decking and furniture,” the group said. “It is likely that even more teak is being exported to the US via third countries such as China”.
According to the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, which monitors global trade, Myanmar earned nearly US$ 100 million in revenue from taxes and royalties on timber sales in 2017-2018, while revenues for the forestry industry as a whole reached US$ 322 million.
Since the coup, revenues have significantly dropped.