Daily Archives: April 20, 2017

Myanmar Authorities Nab Illegal Drugs, Cattle at New China Border Checkpoint in Shan State

Authorities in Myanmar's northern Shan state have seized more than U.S. $1.5 million worth of illegal drugs, timber, and cattle at a new inspection station for transport vehicles that opened two months ago, an official who works at the checkpoint said Thursday.

They transferred the drugs, which were headed to China, from the checkpoint in Yepu to a police station in the town of Theinni, said Teat Tun Aung, deputy director of the inspection station.

Authorities also recently seized two trucks carrying illegal timber and cattle headed for China, he said.

Within two months of opening the checkpoint, authorities have confiscated illegally transported items, including 888 grams (two pounds) of heroin and 74 head of cattle, totaling 2.23 billion kyats (U.S. $1.62 million), he said.

We have seized illegal food that people shouldn't eat, clothing, household goods, shoes, cattle, snakes, Padauk timber, and some chemicals to make medicine, Teat Tun Aung said.

We have transferred the timber, cows, and snakes to the state Forestry Department, he said.

Authorities will transfer other items, including clothing, food, and household goods brought from China with illegal documents, to the Customs Department.

Shan state and neighboring Kachin state are hotbeds of illegal drug and smuggling activities where ethnic rebel groups�some of which take part in the illegal activities�have engaged in periodic hostilities with Myanmar's armed forces during the last few years.

Copyright (copyright) 1998-2016, RFA. Used with the permission of Radio Free Asia, 2025 M St. NW, Suite 300, Washington DC 20036

Prime Minister: Serbia to Invest Some Budget Savings in Defense Industry

BELGRADE � The Serbian government made budget savings of around 480 million euros ($515.95 million) in the first quarter of 2017 and wants to inject nearly 10 percent of that sum into the defense industry, Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic said Thursday.

Vucic also said Serbia's exports of weapons and military equipment was expected to reach 550 million euros in 2017, up from an estimated 449 million euros last year.

"We agreed to give big money to the defense industry. ... When you have a market that is secured for a decade or so, then you invest in production," Vucic told a news conference after meeting top executives from the sector.

He said the funds would be used to develop new factories and overhaul existing ones, based on increased demand in the global weapons market.

Serbia exports small arms, artillery systems, missiles, ammunition and various equipment through 173 licensed companies to dozens of countries, including the United States, Israel, Canada, Myanmar and Saudi Arabia.

In February, Assistant Defence Minister Nenad Miloradovic said the United Arab Emirates remains a key market for Serbia's defense industry, where it has "active contracts" worth some $220 million, the B92 news portal reported.

The budget savings have been generated by structural reforms and improved tax collection. Serbia's budget deficit is seen at around 1.2 percent of GDP this year, down from 2.1 percent at the end of 2016, and economic growth is put at around 3 percent.

Vucic said Serbia's own 28,000-strong armed forces also needed new weaponry and modernization.

Belgrade has recently procured six MiG-29 jets, 30 tanks and armored personnel carriers from Russia as well as nine helicopters from Airbus.

Serbia's military budget for 2017 accounts for 1.39 percent of GDP, or around $503 million. The country is militarily neutral and tries to balance between NATO and Russia, its traditional Slavic and Orthodox Christian ally.

Source: Voice of America

China to Try Political Refugee Forcibly Repatriated by Thailand For Subversion

Authorities in the central Chinese province of Henan are preparing to try an activist on subversion charges after he was forcibly repatriated by Thailand despite having been granted political refugee status by the United Nations.

Activists Dong Guangping and Jiang Yefei were handed back to Chinese authorities in November 2015, in a move that drew strong criticism from the U.N. High Commission for Refugees and human rights groups.

They have since been held in a detention center in the southwestern city of Chongqing, while their families have been resettled in Canada.

Dong's Canada-based wife Gu Shuhua said she is very concerned for his well-being, and that he also faces charges relating to his illegal crossing of the border with neighboring Myanmar during his flight to Thailand.

"Dong Guangping is facing two charges, one of 'illegally crossing a border,' and the other is 'incitement to subvert state power,'" she said on Thursday. "I strongly condemn these charges that have been brought by the Chinese government against Dong Guangping."

"Dong Guangping is a good man who fought to enable a better life for ordinary Chinese people," Gu said. "He wanted constitutional government one day for China. He was unarmed, with no vested interests and without ties to any organizations, so how could he have incited people to bring down the regime?"

Gu said she fears her husband will receive a heavy jail term. "Dong Guangping has been framed, and he could be sent away for a long time," she said.

Denied permission

Dong's lawyer Chang Boguang told RFA that he has been repeatedly denied permission to meet with his client, and he wasn't notified that the authorities are now preparing a trial.

"I heard that the case was moving to trial, but I haven't had any official communication," Chang said. "His wife instructed me to act in his defense, but I have been to Chongqing four times and haven't been allowed to see him in spite of lodging all the right paperwork with the court."

"The court has said it won't allow me to act for Dong Guangping, saying that he already has a lawyer, one that has been allocated for him by the authorities in Chongqing."

Sources said that Jiang Yefei is facing the same charges as Dong, and was formally arrested on May 13, 2016. Jiang's family have also been informed that he has "changed lawyers."

Dong Guangping fled China with his family in September after serving a three-year jail term for subversion from 2001-2004, and being disappeared and held for eight months in secret detention in 2014.

Political cartoonist Jiang Yefei had been in Thailand since fleeing China in 2008, where he was detained and tortured after he criticized the ruling Chinese Communist Party's handling of the devastating Sichuan earthquake, and was granted refugee status last April by the U.N. High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR).

Chinese officials told his brother that Beijing would be seeking his extradition on suspicion of "incitement to subvert state power" after he published a number of satirical cartoons targeting President Xi Jinping.

Both Jiang and Dong have "confessed" to the charges against them, their relatives have told RFA.

Thailand isn't a signatory to the United Nations covenant on refugees, and doesn't recognize the concept of political asylum. However, Chinese refugees, once approved by UNHCR, have the option of resettlement in more than 50 countries if they can evade detention by the country's immigration police.

Copyright (copyright) 1998-2016, RFA. Used with the permission of Radio Free Asia, 2025 M St. NW, Suite 300, Washington DC 20036