Myanmar Junta Seizes Around 300 Mandalay Gem Traders

By The Irrawaddy 21 December 2021

Myanmar junta troops raided two jade trading compounds in Mandalay on Sunday, detaining around 300 people, including Chinese brokers, according to gems traders.

More than 50 personnel were involved in the raids where jade is sold with the online Chinese payment platform, WeChat.

Nearly 200 traders were detained at the Happy Birthday jade and gems company in Maha Aung Myay Township and around 100 more were seized at the Shwe Duwun jade and gems company in Aungmyaythazan Township.

Jade and gem trading in Mandalay.

“Jade is bought over the internet in China. The military regime has banned selling jade via WeChat where most of the trade is done but traders have no choice,” said a Maha Aung Myay gem merchant.

The majority of detainees are brokers and only a small number are traders, said another merchant. The detainees were reportedly taken to Obo Prison.

There were reports that detainees will be fined 1 million kyats (US$563) each and 500,000 kyats to get a motorbike back.

“One of my cousins was detained while selling jade at Happy Birthday. He said they were asked to pay 1 million kyats per person to get released. The junta troops have also kept their motorbikes, phones and jade,” said the Maha Aung Myay merchant.

Jade and gem trading in Mandalay.

An owner of a jade and gem polishing business in Chanayethazan Township said: “People have to do whatever job is available because of the instability. I think the junta troops raided because they are cash-strapped. It seems the junta commanders allowed subordinates to carry out the raids to support them.”

There is a municipal jade market in Maha Aung Myay which closed in March last year due to COVID-19 and was reopened by the junta-appointed mayor in October.

However, most traders and brokers use unofficial markets as they did while the official market was closed.

Jade and gem trading in Mandalay.

The junta-appointed Mandalay City Development Committee called for all trade to be conducted at its Maha Aung Myay market. Junta troops have reportedly threatened to shoot anyone trading outside the official market.

A Chanmyathazi gem merchant said: “The regime wants to control the trade. But no one dares to go there because they are afraid of both sides. Jade and gem traders and brokers are having a hard time. Few will use the official market because the regime makes random checks, asking for traders’ details. People prefer the unofficial markets.”

Meanwhile, resistance groups have warned against trading at the official market to prevent the regime from receiving taxes and rent. There have been at least five explosions near the market since it reopened.

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