Myanmar Junta’s Jade Mining Ban Targets Resistance Funding, KIA Says

By The Irrawaddy 5 April 2022

The Myanmar military regime’s recent order halting all jade mining in Kachin State was issued with the aim of putting pressure on the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), according to Colonel Naw Bu, the ethnic armed group’s information officer. 

Myanma Gems Enterprise, a state-owned company under the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environmental Conservation, announced in the March 31 issues of the regime’s newspapers that jade mining in Lone Khin, Hpakant, Maw Lu and Maw Han will no longer be allowed so that, it said, the country’s precious resources can be conserved for succeeding generations, and the environment and the safety of jade miners can be protected.  

The KIA is still considering how to respond to the jade mining ban in Kachin. In the meantime, it will wait and see what the regime does to companies that fail to comply with the order. 

“We will wait and see. Many people from across Myanmar make a living in Hpakant. So, their order will only hurt the people, and we will see if miners follow their instruction. I think the ban will further aggravate the problem,” Col. Naw Bu said, referring to the adverse consequences on the hundreds of thousands of people working there, and the many more engaged in the jade industry. 

A jade miner in Kachin State said most of the jade mining companies in Kachin State pay tax to the KIA. 

“Most of the jade mines here are under the control of the KIA. Even the military-linked companies have to pay tax to the armed group. So, [the regime] does not want others to benefit from [mining] while it can’t. It assumes that the profits from jade mines will go to the resistance movement and is therefore trying to disrupt the business,” he said. 

Jade is the main source of income for the KIA, which is fighting for greater autonomy in Kachin State. The trade is also responsible for decades-long tensions between the KIA and Myanmar’s military, which battle for control of jade revenues. 

The armed group has publicly opposed the military regime since its coup last year, and also trained and armed local resistance groups, collectively known as the People’s Defense Force (PDF), which are fighting the regime. 

A political analyst said the regime imposed the ban to stretch the finances of the KIA and the PDF.

“As all the companies have to pay tax to the KIA in their transactions, [the regime has imposed the ban] to cut the cash flow to the KIA and PDF,” he said. 

“But in Hpakant alone, there are nearly 500,000 prospectors. And it is not an easy task for the military to drive all of them out of the mines. As a result, illegal mining and the illegal market will re-emerge, as in the past,” he added.  

A source close to jade miners shared the view that the ban will only create an illegal market. 

“If jade mining is criminalized, it will create problems for scavengers. They can be arrested for illegal possession of stones,” he said. 

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