MAC/20: Mines and Communities

Jaded appetites bring death while Thai NGOs demand Olympic-focussed

Published by MAC on 2008-08-11

Landslide in Phakant kills 20 people - Phanida

Mizzima News

4th August 2008

A landslide in Phakant jade mine killed at least 20 people, local residents said.

They were killed while searching for gold in the dumping site of jade mining companies in the afternoon of July 30 at Hmawsizar jade mine in Phakant, Myitkyinar district, Kachin State, northern Burma.

There is very little chance of retrieving the bodies from the landslide. Most of the dead hail from central Burma.

"People tried to save them that day and the next. They have now stopped the rescue and search operations. Three to four bodies reached our hospital," a nurse from nearby 'Lonekhin' hospital told Mizzima.

Landslides frequently kill people in these remote jade and gold mines, about 960 kilometres north of Rangoon, but the news of these tragic deaths rarely reach the outside world.

Jade from Phakant mines are famous the world over.

Meanwhile, a Thai based student group urged people going to the 2008 Beijing Olympics not to buy jewellery and souvenirs made from gems and stones from Phakant jade mines.

"Our mountains have disappeared and our youth are dying. The generals are letting their cronies mine away our future," Naw La, a member of 'All Burma Kachin Students' Union' (AKSYU), said. "We urge people not to buy blood jade from Burma", the appeal said.


Activists urge people to boycott Burmese "blood jade" in Beijing Olympics

by Hseng Khio Fah, Shan Herald Agency for News

4th August 2008

Activists are calling on global consumers to boycott souvenirs and jewelry made of Burmese jade in order to avoid supporting Burma's abuse-ridden jade mining industry that provides the military regime with one of its largest sources of solid cash, according to a new report released today.

The report named "Blood Jade: Burmese Gemstones & the Beijing Games" was released by All Kachin Students & Youth Union(AKSYU) and 8-8-08 for Burma and urged individuals-global consumers, Olympic spectators and Olympic athletes and visitors to China for the 2008 Summer Olympics to boycott the sale of Burma blood in Beijing and beyond.

For the first time in history, Olympic medals will include a material other than gold, silver, and bronze while the medals of the Beijing Games are made with Chinese nephrite jade, Burmese jadeite has eclipsed nephrite in popularity in China. Gem-quality jade, a class of jadeite, is only produced by Burmese mines, which are controlled and operated by the military regime and its business partners.

The report said, "The Beijing Organizing Committee of the Games of the XXIX Olympiad (BOCOG) and the government of the Peoples Republic of China should take immediate action to curb the global trade in blood jade, beginning by ending their promotion of jade products from Burma."

Cristina Moon, executive director of the 8888 for Burma said, "We are relieved that the Beijing Organizing Committee of the Olympic Games has sourced the jade for the Olympic medals and official souvenirs from China."

"But there is a growing demand for Burmese jade that will only increase due to the Olympic promotion of jade. The generals will keep using their jade profits to buy weapons and crush dissent in Burma unless individuals take a stand."

The report also details about how the military regime that rules Burma makes millions of dollars per year from the export of jade, primarily to China.

Jadeite production comes at significant costs to the human rights and environmental security of the people living in Kachin State. Land confiscation and forced relocation are commonplace and improper mining practices lead to frequent accidents and base wages less than US$1 per day, says the report.

"Our mountains have disappeared and our youth are dying. The generals are letting their cronies mine away our future," said Naw La of the AKSYU. "We urge people not to buy blood jade from Burma,"

The report ends with a reminder: "It is critically important that the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the rest of the Olympic movement find clear and creative means to distance itself from the trade in Burmese blood jade to protect the integrity of the most important symbols of the Olympics and the fundamental values enshrined in the Olympic Charter. They should take swift action to safeguard the trust of the world citizens who are at risk of becoming unwitting parties to a global blood jade industry mired in a system of abuse and lawlessness."

On 29 July, US president George W Bush signed legislation into law to prevent US retailers of Burmese gems from legally profiting from the trade.

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