Eleven Gold Panners Killed as Myanmar Military Bombs KNU-Controlled Area
By The Irrawaddy 31 March 2021
YANGON—Eleven men were killed and five others were injured in a Myanmar military airstrike on a gold-panning site in an area under the control of the Karen National Union (KNU)’s Brigade 3 in Shwekyin Township, Nyaunglebin District, Bago Region.
A Myanmar military fighter plane bombed the site at around 12 p.m. on Tuesday, said KNU Brigade 3.
On Tuesday, Saw Ester from a Karen social organization based in areas controlled by KNU Brigade 3 said, “[The military] bombed Madama Creek using a plane, and seven villagers panning for gold there died.” Of those seven fatalities initially reported, two were Shwekyin residents and the five others came from other parts of the country to work at the gold panning site, said Saw Ester. On Wednesday, he updated the death toll, telling The Irrawaddy that “the number of deaths from the bombing was confirmed as 11 when we went there to assess the situation. They are gold panners in Madama Creek. Five are injured. Three backhoes and four 10-wheeler trucks were burnt.”
One of the five injured is a KNU member and the rest are civilians.
The gold panning site is a joint venture between the KNU/Karen National Liberation Army-Peace Council and Swe Dana Tun Lin Mining Co.
In 2017, two years after the Karen ethnic armed group signed the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement, KNU Brigade 7 applied for permission to extract gold, sand and gravel along Madama Creek in partnership with the government.
According to the KNU, the business is intended to provide jobs and promote the welfare of family members of KNU fighters.
KNU’s partner Shwe Dana Tun Lin Co. employs Chinese technicians and skilled laborers in gold extraction, and its license is valid until November.
This story was updated at 7:30 p.m. on Mar. 31.
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