Statement of Canadian Friends of Burma (CFOB) – December 6, 2011
OTTAWA -The Canadian Friends of Burma (CFOB) welcomes news that Calgary firm Kenn Borek Air Ltd. was fined $25,000 yesterday for exporting a de Havilland DHC-6 Twin Otter airplane to Burma in November 2007 “without applying for, receiving, or possessing a required export permit as required by section 13 of the Export and Import Permit Act”.
Although the plane was sent prior to December 2007 when Canada implemented full economic sanctions against the Burmese regime, under the old rules that were in effect at the time Kenn Borek Air Ltd was obligated to register any planned export to Burma and file other documents to ensure the plane wasn't being used for military purposes. These rules had been in place since 1997 when Canada placed Burma on the Area Control List.
Tin Maung Htoo, Executive Director of CFOB, is pleased that the government took action against a firm that was in clear violation of Canadian export controls with Burma. “This plane was sent to Burma less than a month after the Burmese army finished shooting monks and other protesters in the streets of Rangoon during the Saffron revolution” said Tin Maung Htoo. "In light of all the media attention Burma received at the time I find it hard to understand how Kenn Borek’s employees just forget to fill out the necessary paperwork to comply with the regulations" Tin Maung Htoo added.
According to an agreed statement of facts released by the court Monday, the de Havilland DHC-6 Twin Otter airplane was sent to Burma, along with support staff and spare parts to fulfill a contract Kenn Borek had with Vancouver based CHC Helicopter. CHC Helicopter which had been flying Kenn Borek’s planes in Burma since 1994 had hired the Twin Otter to provide transport for an oil firm.
While the agreed statements of fact does not reveal which oil firm CHC was providing transport for, CHC is known to have flown in Burma for French energy giant Total. Information released during a US lawsuit by Burmese villagers against UNOCAL, Total’s business partner in Burma, revealed that helicopter landing pads, airstrips and roads built to service Total’s Yadana pipeline were built by the Burmese military using forced labour on land confiscated from local villagers.
Tin Maung Htoo hopes the crime of forced labour in Burma’s oil and gas industry is not lost on the employees at Kenn Borek “I hope the pilots and other staff of Kenn Borek and CHC who travelled to Burma realize that the air strips they were landing on were built with forced labour and the blood of innocent villagers.”
The agreed statement of facts reveals that upon completion of the contract the de Havilland DHC-6 Twin Otter airplane registration #C-GPAO returned to Canada. The plane never changed ownership during its operations in Burma.
A photo of the plane in question on the tarmac at the Airport in Rangoon in January 2008 can be viewed at the plane spotter website Air-Britain http://www.abpic.co.uk/photo/1092455/
Status of CHC’s Burma activities unclear
CHC Helicopter operated a joint venture with a Burmese state owned firm called Myanmar Helicopter International from the early 1990’s until at least 2008. It appears CHC may have sold its 49% stake in the joint venture to the French firm Heli Union. This however has yet to be confirmed as CHC has so far declined to respond to questions from the general public and members of Parliament about its Burmese activities.
A written question submitted to parliament by NDP MP Paul Dewar in early 2008 revealed that the government had put aside scant resources to actually monitor the implementation of the new Burma sanctions. Dewar’s request for a list of firm’s still operating in Burma at the time was refused out of respect for their “privacy”.
The Canadian Friends of Burma (CFOB) is federally incorporated, national non-governmental organization working for democracy and human rights in Burma. Contact: Suite 206, 145 Spruce St., Ottawa, K1R 6P1; Tel: 613.237.8056; Email: email@example.com; Web: www.cfob.org