MAC: Mines and Communities

Regime Seals Off Kachin Gold-mining Areas

Published by MAC on 2006-10-26

Regime Seals Off Kachin Gold-mining Areas

By Khun Sam, The Irrawaddy

26th October 2006

Burmese troops have reportedly blocked routes into two gold mining areas of Kachin State, disrupting major sources of revenue for the Kachin Independence Organization.

The military action, sealing off the mining areas of Mali Hku and N’Mai Hku, is apparently in response to the refusal by the KIO to join a regime-instigated protest against the inclusion of the Burma question on the agenda of the UN Security Council.

Sources in the Kachin State capital, Myitkyina, told The Irrawaddy on Thursday that government troops had been preventing the transport of essential supplies such as rice and fuel into the gold-mining areas since the end of September. The areas are some 80 km (50 miles) from Myitkyina.

“The gold mining business has been on hold due to the Burmese (soldiers) prohibiting supplies being transported there,” a pastor from the Mali Hku area told The Irrawaddy. He said rice was in short supply and the price had risen threefold.

One source said about half the 30 or so gold-mining operations in the N’Mai Hku area had been forced to close because of the disruption of supplies. Soldiers there were demanding high taxes from local businesspeople, the source said.

Mali Hka and N’Mai Hka are two main tributaries of the Irrawaddy River and the surrounding areas are controlled by the KIO, one of Burma’s major former insurgent groups.

Although the blockades are thought to be in retaliation for the KIO refusal to join in condemnation of UN Security Council discussion of Burma, the head of Northern Command, Maj-Gen Ohn Myint, said the problems had been caused by the mismanagement of a low-ranking official, according to KIO Myitkyina liaison officer Kumhtat Gam.

Justifying its refusal to condemn the inclusion of Burma on the UN Security Council agenda, the KIO told the regime in late September that it wanted to remain neutral. A number of other ethnic ceasefire group have fallen in line with the regime-led condemnation.

Shortly after the KIO refusal, the government blocked one of the group’s trade routes on the China-Burma border, a major source of revenue. Some unlicensed vehicles belonging to KIO members were also confiscated.

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