MAC: Mines and Communities

Further jade conflict erupts in Burma

Published by MAC on 2015-07-01
Source: Irrawaddy, Burma News International

Yet more conflict has broken out in Burma's jade mining region of Hpakant between national forces and the Kachin Indepencence Army (KIA), further setting back any prospects of a peace agreement - and lending heavier weight to the argument that Buma's gems should be classifiied as "conflict minerals".

For previous article, see: Burma is still burning

Indigenous villages from a township in Mon state have taken the unusual (and imaginative) step of turning themselves into police, after fellow villagers were arrested for protesting against a coal-fired power project on their land. They asked:

"Why were only twenty-six villagers taken in to be investigated ? It's as if they were under investigation on our behalf, so we have come here to join them".

Locals Show Support for Arrested Power Station Protesters

Burma News International

30 June 2015

Anndin Village Tract locals went to Ye Town Police Station in large numbers to show solidarity with 26 locals who were arrested and taken in for investigation on 13 June before being charged under Article 4.

Locals who support the coal-fired power project in Anndin sent Ye Town Police a letter complaining about the behaviour of people opposed to the project. As a result of the letter the police took in 26 anti coal-power protesters, including the Hnit-Kayot Village Chairman, for questioning.

On hearing that the 26 protesters were being charged. residents from four villages in Anndin Village Tract rushed to the police station on 25 June to show solidarity with the detained people and to ask to be included in the investigation.

About 350 villagers from Anndin, Hnit-Kayot, Ywa Thit, and Thar-Karan villages travelled the 14 miles to Ye Town using 19 trucks and 50 motorcycles.

U Nyut Win from Anndin Village, who came to the police station to support the accused said: "We also oppose the sale of the land. Why were only 26 villagers taken in to be investigated? It is as if they were under investigation on our behalf, so we came here to join them."

The villagers turned themselves into the police to join the 26 accused people. Ye town Police took their names and said that the case would proceed in accordance with the law.

An official who is conducting the investigation said: "Now, we are just at the stage of questioning the accused [who are already in custody]. Those who came now will be also be questioned individually."

After police received the letter of complaint the accused were taken to Ye Town Police Station on 13 June where they were questioned by Police Head Aung Myint Thein from Thanbyuzayat Township Police Force. Officials from Ye Town Police Station also questioned the accused later that day.

The proposed coal-fired electricity plant project is to be built by the Toyo-Thai company with a $2700 million USD investment , and once it comes into operation, the plant will be capable of producing 1280 Megawatts of electricity. On 9 April a memorandum of agreement (MoA) was signed between Toyo-Thai, the union government and the ministry of electricity.

Ever since it was announced, locals have continuously opposed the the coal-fired project. On 14 December 2014 about 500 people led by the Ye township Social Society Group held a protest march against the project in Ye Town.

After the Toyo-Thai company signed the MoU with the government on 5 May 2015 about 6,000 locals staged a protest on a football field in Anndin Village.

Edited in English by Mark Inkey for BNI

2 police injured by bomb blast in Hpakant

The Irrawaddy

19 June 2015

Two police officers were injured by a bomb blast in Hpakant on Wednesday night, following renewed conflict in the jade-rich area of northern Burma’s Kachin State.

Police said three blasts were reported; one in downtown Hpakant and two in the outlying villages.

“There was a blast near the Jade Bridge [in downtown Hpakant] and one at Nant Maw, which left two police officers with minor injuries,” said Aung Myint, a spokesman for the Hpakant Police.

The third explosion took place near a military security office in Sint Mu, another village on the outskirts of town, he said, adding that it was “too early to say who is responsible.”

The two injured officers have been taken to Hpakant General Hospital for treatment and calm has been restored to the town amid heightened security, the spokesman said.

Locals are concerned, however, that conflict between the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) and the Burma Army will intensify, causing villagers to flee, local businesses to fold and political rights to be withheld.

Residents worry that elections expected to take place in early November could be cancelled in the area if fighting continues. Hpakant’s electorate was not allowed to vote during the 2012 by-elections because conflict made the area inaccessible to poll workers.

“During the by-election, we couldn’t participate for security reasons, so we worry that we will be excluded again,” said La Moung, a local villager.

Others, such as jade mine operator Rwae Jar, expressed concern that the conflict could damage the local economy.

“We just worry about our own security, and we also worry that the situation will pressure the mining business to shut down,” she said, fearing a repeat of a previous hiatus from which local businesses have just begun to recoup.

Mining was stalled for two years by a government order following a flare-up of conflict in the region, but resumed in September of last year despite security warnings from local officials and industry experts. Conflict erupted again within months of restarting operations, leading many local operators to voluntarily stop working their mines for months.

Clashes between government troops and the KIA have flared intermittently since a ceasefire broke down in mid-2011, with an estimated 100,000 people having been displaced by the violence.

About 100 villagers are believed to have fled after fighting broke out about 20 miles east of Hpakant on Monday. Local sources said they are believed to be hiding in the nearby jungles, and are likely difficult for relief workers to access.

The KIA is one of the only major ethnic armed groups in Burma that has not reached a bilateral ceasefire with the government as negotiators continue their push for a nationwide peace pact.

Kachin State is among the world’s last remaining sources of jade, and is also rich in other gems, minerals and valuable timber. Resource extraction has long been both a major cause and source of revenue for conflict in the remote ethnic state bordering China.

Fresh fighting in Hpakant sends 100 villagers fleeing – Lawi Weng

The Irrawaddy

17 June 2015

Fresh skirmishes have broken out between the Burma Army and the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), with local sources claiming over 100 villagers were displaced and hiding in the jungle near Hpakant.

Fighting began 20 miles east of the town on Monday when the Burma Army entered a KIA controlled area without advance warning, according to Lamai Gum Ja, a spokesman for the KIA-affiliated Kachin Peace Creation Group.

“We heard that the Burma Army went to attack our KIA Battalion No.6,” he said. “This is why fighting broke out. We do not yet have all the information on the ground.”

He added that there were no confirmed reports of casualties and he expected to learn more about the aftermath of the battle on Thursday.

A member of Karuna Myanmar Social Services, who requested anonymity, told The Irrawaddy that initial fighting lasted one hour on Monday, but intermittent skirmishes had continued through to Wednesday in Sai Ja and Awang Hla villages. He said many villagers had fled into the jungle and relief efforts had been hampered by an inability to contact those who had left their homes .

“Our members could not travel into the village because the Burma Army blocked all roads in. We do not know their current situation or even what is happening there,” he said, adding that the KBC and other religious groups were waiting on travel permissions for the area from local authorities in Hpakant.

The KIA is one of the only major ethnic armed groups in Burma that has not reached a bilateral ceasefire agreement. Last week marked the fourth anniversary of renewed conflict with the Burmese government, after a previous ceasefire broke down in June 2011.

Hpakant saw fierce clashes in January after KIA troops detained three police officers and Kaman Du Naw, the Kachin State transportation minister. The resulting firefights displaced more than 1,000 area residents.

Col. Maran Zau Taung, a KIA officer stationed in the state capital Myitkyina, has reportedly traveled to Laiza this week to meet with the rebel group’s leaders and discuss a resolution to the recurring armed conflicts in Hpakant.

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