16 Killed, Scores Hurt as Mining Materials Depot Explodes in Wa Region

By Lawi Weng 25 March 2019

Sixteen people were killed and 48 injured when a storage facility for gas and explosives blew up in Man Maw (Mongma) town in Wa Special Region 2 near the Chinese border on March 23, according to the United Wa State Army (UWSA).

The explosion occurred at around 5 pm local time and left a huge dust cloud over the town. Video footage posted on Facebook showed a large blast site with many destroyed buildings and dead bodies. UWSA troops could be seen assisting the wounded.

“The wounded were sent to [Yunan province in] China for treatment,” Nyi Rang, a spokesperson for the UWSA based in Lashio, northern Shan State, told The Irrawaddy on Monday.

Local authorities said the blast was sparked by faulty wiring at a warehouse used to store mining supplies including gas and explosives. Man Maw is a major tin-mining center.

According to Nyi Rang, UWSA authorities planned to take action against the owners of the facility for storing explosive materials in the town without permission.

According to a paper published by the journal Resources Policy, a huge increase in tin production in UWSA-controlled Man Maw starting in 2009 saw Myanmar soar to the position of the world’s third-largest tin producer in 2014. The report cited figures from the U.K.-based International Tin Research Institute (ITRI).

The UWSA trades the tin to China. An Irrawaddy journalist visiting the area in 2015 reported seeing over 100 12-wheeled trucks transporting tin ore across the border into China.

Special Region 2 is an autonomous area under the control of the UWSA, the largest ethnic armed force in Myanmar.