Jade industry risks becoming ‘slush fund’ for junta, says report


Precious find: Freelance jade miners collecting jade stones at an earth dump in Kachin State. Global Witness says the military takeover has crushed prospects for environmental controls in the mining sector. — AP

THE country’s multi-billion-dollar jade mines risk becoming a “slush fund” for military repression, Global Witness said, urging consumers to boycott purchasing any jade and gemstones from the coup-wracked nation.

The country has been in turmoil since the military toppled the government of Aung San Suu Kyi with more than 880 killed in a junta crackdown on dissent, according to a local monitoring group..

Myanmar is one of the world’s biggest sources of jadeite and the industry is largely driven by insatiable demand for the green gem from neighbouring countries.

The mines in northern Kachin state are mired in secrecy, but help finance both sides of a decades-long civil war between armed ethnic groups and the military.

With the military taking control of licensing, the industry now risks “becoming a slush fund and source of patronage” for the junta as it looks to secure its grip on power, international watchdog Global Witness said in a report released yesterday.

“The grip of the military on the jade sector is so strong that it would be nearly impossible to purchase jade without providing money to the generals and their allies, ” said Keel Dietz, the NGO’s Myanmar Policy Advisor.

Global Witness called for sanctions to ban the import of all jade and gemstones mined in the country and for companies and consumers to “avoid purchasing any jade and gems sourced from Myanmar”.

Very little of the profits end up in state coffers, with most high-quality jade smuggled over the border.

Before the coup, 70% to 90% of all jade mined in Hpakant in Kachin state was smuggled over the border “without ever entering the formal system in Myanmar, ” Global Witness said. — AFP

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