MANDALAY — Five freelance miners were shot dead and at least 20 injured when security forces opened fire on them for scavenging for jade scraps on Wednesday evening in the Lone Kin mining area of Kachin State.
According to witnesses, police tried to stop a couple of prospectors who were searching for residues of jade at the operation of Myanmar-China joint venture Triple One Company in the Ngopin Phawar jade mining area of Sankhar village.
A witness who did not want to be named out of fear for their safety said a prospector complained of being injured by a stone thrown by police.
“Angry prospectors gathered later and confronted the police,” said the witness.
A group of prospectors then attacked the police, who were providing security for the mining company, and destroyed a piece of heavy machinery, according to first-hand accounts.
“The prospectors and the police threw stones at each other. Both sides were hurt and later the police opened fire, killing five prospectors on the spot,” said the witness, adding that out of the injured, nine were in a serious condition. Two policemen, one of them a colonel, were also injured, said witnesses.
The police station in Lone Kin said the incident is under investigation and declined to comment further.
Local lawmakers told The Irrawaddy those who sustained serious injuries were sent to Myitkyina Hospital in the Kachin capital while others were sent to Lone Kin Hospital for treatment.
“The prospectors are allowed to work under a time limit in certain areas. We heard the prospectors went before the opening time and clashed with the police there,” said U Lashi Daseng, MP of Hpakant.
The lawmaker said the situation in the area is under control and calm.
In Lone Kin and Hpakant jade mining areas, clashes between freelance miners, jade mining firms and security forces are not uncommon, as the firms do not want the prospectors to work in their areas.
Local administration offices have mediated negotiations between the prospectors and firms in order to allow prospectors restricted access to the areas.