Editorial: Harsh sentence on Chinese loggers unfair

Source:Global Times Published: 2015-7-23 0:53:03

A court in Myitkyina, Myanmar on Wednesday handed down heavy penalties to 155 Chinese nationals for illegal logging. According to Myanmar reports, 153 were sentenced to life imprisonment and two 17-year-olds were given 10-year sentences. The Chinese Embassy to Myanmar later said 152 people were sentenced to 20 years in prison, one person to 35 years, and two minors to 10 years. The embassy said it has launched solemn representations to the Myanmar side and consular officials have headed to Myitkyina. 

It is extremely rare that over 150 people would be punished so severely for the same reason. Even if these loggers have made mistakes, the severity of their mistakes and corresponding responsibilities are supposed to be different, which deserve varied punishments. It seems the Chinese nationals were brought by agents to northern Myanmar for logging. In Southeast Asia, some people often cross borders for logging. With varied management, they are often given light punishment if they are apprehended. Some Chinese workers are legally allowed to work as loggers in northern Myanmar, but they are sometimes unaccepted by the Myanmese government.

The Chinese government has never supported its nationals in the pursuit of any illegal activity in Myanmar, which the Myanmese government knows well. The real reason behind the heavy penalty imposed by Myanmar's authorities is unknown. It might be related to the worsening situation in northern Myanmar since this year. The fate of these Chinese workers is pending given they still have the chance to appeal. The Chinese Embassy has also stepped in. We hope Chinese government efforts can help reverse the case.

Western media are trying to foment discord between China and Myanmar, claiming China is looting local resources. A few cases of Chinese engaging in illegal business in Myanmar have been scrutinized by public opinion, exaggerated as China's economic "invasion" of the latter. We urge the Myanmese public to look upon China-Myanmar trade in a positive way. Business activities by Chinese in northern Myanmar need better regulation through bilateral cooperation. The two sides should also avoid misjudgment caused by a few specific conflicts.

Myanmar should fully consider that it is hard for these convicted Chinese nationals to understand its domestic situation and whether the logging was legal. It is hardly credible that these workers would risk over 20 years' jail time just to earn a living.

We believe that those who commit crimes must pay a price. However, sentencing some 150 Chinese workers to such a heavy penalty is probably unfair, judged by rational sense.

We hope inter-government consultation can help find a justified solution. Most of the Chinese workers working there are ordinary people, who might not understand the characteristics of logging in Myanmar. We hope that humanitarian factors can be considered in deciding their case.

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