Hpakant Locals Allege KIA Detention of Jade Mine Protesters

By Zarni Mann 17 December 2015

MANDALAY — Locals who blocked trucks from dumping jade mine waste near their homes in Hpakant have allegedly been detained by members of the Kachin Independence Army (KIA).

According to local villagers in Hpakant, the epicenter of Burma’s immensely lucrative jade trade, five men and two women who organized the blockade were taken away from their homes by men identifying themselves as KIA members on Monday night.

Kai Rwae, a villager who spoke to media about the blockade protest, and a member of a local civil society organization were allegedly among those detained.

“The men said they are from the KIA and wanted to talk with the protesters. When they met with these seven people, they asked them to get into a truck and drove away,” said a family member, who requested anonymity.

“We called the KIA to inquire the case, but we can’t get through yet. We’ve lost contact with our family members and heard nothing about them. We are worried for their lives and our own safety,” he added.

The Irrawaddy was unable to reach KIA representatives for comment on Thursday.

Locals from Seng La, Mazut Pyan, Aung Larang and Seng Khar have been staging the blockade since Dec. 10, claiming that waste piles brought into the vicinity of their villages have damaged crops and heightened the risk of landslides and flooding. Recent reports suggest a massive increase in the scale of jade mining in the area, ahead of the transition to a new government at the end of March.

Authorities met with the protesters on Sunday, threatening legal action if the blockade was not called off.