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Screening of Film on Myanmar’s Jade Trade Cancelled
Source : Myanmar Business Today View Count : 3922
May 28, 2017

A hotel in Myanmar abruptly cancelled a film screening by a non-government body, Global Witness, that is critical of the role of the military in the lucrative jade business and its im­pact on a difficult peace process.
        The cancellation last week highlights sensitivi­ties over portrayals of the army as Myanmar grap­ples with the legacy of nearly 50 years of military rule, following a semi-civilian government and 2015 elections that led to the administration of Aung San Suu Kyi.
        The event was timed ahead of a peace confer­ence this week that will include Suu Kyi, the mili­tary and ethnic armed groups, some of whom have fought the central government for decades demanding greater au­tonomy.
        The hotel in Yangon had been due to host the screening with officials of the London-based NGO, but reporters arriving at the event were told hotel officials would not let it go ahead.
        "We regret we are un­able to show the video as the written permission from the Yangon regional government is required," the Parkroyal Hotel said in a statement read out by Paul Donowitz, Global Witness' campaign leader for Myanmar.
        It was not immediately clear what regulations the hotel was referring to.
        A member of the ho­tel's sales and marketing team, Ei Phyu Sin Aung, referred Reuters to the earlier statement and said the decision was made by the hotel's general man­ager, who was not imme­diately available for com­ment.
        Even after Myanmar's political transition in April 2016, the army continues to wield con­siderable political power, controlling security min­istries and a quarter of the seats in parliament.
        The organisation did not show the film, "Jade and the Generals", but has made it accessible on­line.
        The film underscores the military's role in jade mining in northern Kachin State and urges Suu Kyi's government to regulate profit-sharing from natural resources in ethnic areas so as to ben­efit their residents and defuse tension.
        Myanmar has broadly worded defamation laws which rights monitors say curb freedom of speech and have been used against poets and jour­nalists, even after Suu Kyi took over.
        "In democratic socie­ties it's important that (on) controversial topics oppositional voices are given space to discuss is­sues of great national im­portance," Donowitz told a news conference held instead of the screening.
        "Without allowing open debate it makes it very hard for complicated, longstanding and im­portant issues to get re­solved."
        The value of Myan­mar's secretive jade trade was $31 billion in 2014, or roughly half of GDP, Global Witness estimated in a 2015 report that de­tailed the military fami­lies, drug lords and firms benefiting from it.
        The mining - which feeds neighbouring Chi­na's outsize appetite for the "stone of heaven" - has fuelled armed con­flict, land grabs, deadly landslides and floods, it said. Reuters

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