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Burmese army “tighten up” billions of jade trade: report | International Trade News

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A new report released on Tuesday stated that the Myanmar military has further strengthened its control of the country’s jade trade, using the industry to fund the February 1 coup, which plunged the country into turmoil and named the commander-in-chief of the army. Min Anglai’s son is one of them. People who profit directly from the business.

Global Witness stated that corruption in the country’s jade industry “affects the highest levels of the military”, and February 1st coup It just strengthens the connection with this multi-billion-dollar industry, and the business of this industry is mainly in China.

“Our revelation of the military’s increased control over the multi-billion-dollar jade trade symbolizes the wider occupation of the country’s precious sectors of the economy by the Burmese army, which fund their abuses, fuel the conflict and help them. The recent illegal seizure of power,” said Kilditz, the Myanmar policy adviser to the monitoring agency, which exposed the link between human rights violations and the environment.

The report warned that unless sanctions and other forms of punitive measures are taken, the coup may turn the jade industry into a “bribery fund” for the military and a source of political sponsorship to support the military regime.

The Burmese army, also known as Tatmadaw, estimated to have more than 400,000 troops, has been the country’s most influential political participant since independence in 1948. In addition to a brief democratic leadership, the generals have ruled the country for decades.

Over the years, the military has also been accused of committing atrocities against its own people, including 2017 Violence against the Rohingya This forced hundreds of thousands of mostly Muslim minorities to flee to Bangladesh. The United Nations and human rights organizations described the attack as a war crime and a crime against humanity.

Recently, it restored a separate Armed conflict with national insurgents Starting in early 2020, it replaced tens of thousands of people internally, and then seized power from the National League for Democracy (NLD) government elected by Aung San Suu Kyi in February.

Since the coup, it has suppressed opposition politicians and activists, as well as ordinary people protesting the seizure of power.According to the advocacy organization Association of Political Prisoners (AAPP), the national army has killed 883 people, arrested or Sentenced [can sentencing be done by forces?] More than 5,000.

According to the report, the coup will only exacerbate the link between corruption and violence, which marks the role of the military in the jade industry. It warned that the acquisition could “further open the floodgates of military corruption” and “further into lawlessness” in the jade mining area, and also make the officers and their families rich.

Son of general

The 2021 Global Witness Report further develops the exposure from earlier in 2015, in which for the first time some senior generals have established contacts with the industry. Companies that are still active in the jade trade include Kyaing International Gems, part of which is owned by the son of General Than Shwe, who ruled Myanmar for nearly 20 years before 2011.

In another interview, Dietz, the author of the survey, told Al Jazeera that in the latest report, General Min Anglai’s son Ambi Essonne was also found to be involved in the industry.

Miners search for jade in Pagan, a jade mining center in Kachin State, the country [File: Soe Zeya Tun/Reuters]

Dietz said Ambi Esson played a role in the military’s control of the import of explosives to the core of Myanmar’s jade mining industry, Pagan.

The use of explosives is critical to extracting jade, because the current form of mechanized mining involves using explosives to blow up huge pits before the machines are sent to dig up the rubble.

Dietz said: “The Burmese army controls the main route to Pagan, so explosives traders must pay bribes to northern commanders to obtain permits” to transport explosives.

“The northern commander then paid these bribes up to Aung Pyae Sone,” he said of the son of the highest military commander. Myanmar business tycoon He was recently sanctioned by the United States along with his sister Khin Thiri Thet Mon.

Dietz said that Min Aung Hlaing’s involvement in the jade industry may not come as a surprise, “but it illustrates how this lucrative industry can help maintain the power and influence of military elites and perpetuate conflicts across the country. The Democratic Alliance is trying to reform the industry”.

“Min Aung Hlaing is the host of the world’s most serious crimes against humanity in recent years. Now he has led a coup d’etat that has plunged Myanmar into a crisis and may return the country to its darkest days of military rule,” Dietz said.

Resist reform

For many years, military officials and their controlled companies and their commercial allies have ignored the country’s licensing rules and continued to operate, while resisting the recently deposed Aung San Suu Kyi’s civilian government’s efforts to implement reforms.

In 2016, the National League for Democracy suspended all new emerald licenses, which is expected to change the troubled industry.

At that time, the military group Myanmar Economic Holdings Limited (MEHL) was the largest single holder of a jade and gem mining license. The company controlled 1,100 valid licenses at the time, and in the first few months of 2016 before the National League for Democracy officially took power, it obtained 639 of them in a “crazy resource grab”.

But the report said that even if the issuance of new licenses is suspended, abuses within the system still exist, allowing the industry to continue to operate within the legal framework of “unclear definition and poor enforcement.”

These rules did not relax the military’s control, but paved the way for the military to control Burma’s jade mines during the five-year period of civilian control.

Global Witness stated that now that the military is fully back in power, any possibility of real reform in the near future is “dead.”

Companies identified as part of the MEHL Group include Burmese Ruby Enterprise, Burma Royal Jade Co., Ltd. and Cancri (Gem and Jewelry) Co., Ltd. Soon after the military coup, the United States imposed sanctions on these three companies.

Shrouded in secret

Myanmar activist and poet Me Me Khant told Al Jazeera that until recently, the extent of military involvement in the emerald mining industry remained confidential.

She said that since the release of the Global Witness report in 2015, people have gained more awareness of “mining in the jade industry”.

“The manpower cost of the military’s huge profits in the jade industry is huge. Due to corruption, lack of supervision, and lawless exploitation, hundreds of people die every year in landslides,” Me Me Khant cited as an example. Landslides that caused deaths in 2020 There are approximately 175 miners in Pagan.

She added that other problems have also been reported, including drug addiction and the HIV/AIDS epidemic among miners.

On November 26, 2015, dump trucks at the Pagan jade mine in Kachin State were filled with dirt [File: Soe Zeya Tun/Reuters]

‘Arms trade’

Although the Myanmar military dominates the jade industry, Global Witness surveys also found that more and more ethnic armed groups and militias are also participating in this trade.

Those involved include the Kachin Independence Organization/Army (KIO/A), the United Wa State Party/Army (UWSP/A)-ethnic minority political parties and their armed forces-and the Arakan Army (AA), it said.

“The Burmese army, armed militias and ethnic armed groups such as KIA, UWSA and AA have indeed found common ground to dig jade in a faster and more destructive way, even if they clash in other parts of the country,” Dietz said.

“The hostile forces have strengthened their cooperation with the Burmese military to mine as much jade as possible before the license expires, and sometimes they join forces to illegally mine in the expired plots.”

The report found that jade money from Pagan was subsequently used in the arms trade, exacerbating violent conflicts in northern Myanmar.

According to the report, the UWSA was specifically identified as fulfilling part of its jade-related tax obligations to KIA, “by providing weapons produced in its own factories”, and then KIA sold the weapons to AA.

As shown in the figure, the United Wa State Army has been determined to fulfill part of its jade-related tax obligations to the Kachin Independence Army, providing the Kachin Independence Army with weapons produced in its own factories, and then KIA will sell these weapons to the Rakhine Army [File: Soe Zeya Tun/Reuters]

According to the report, the AA also cooperated with KIA to collect jade funds to support its war against the army in Rakhine and Chin States.

Dietz told Al Jazeera that, however, no clear evidence was found that the Myanmar military is using jade money to directly purchase weapons.

“But in the end all the money is replaceable.”

‘Highly illegal’

In its latest survey, Global Witness estimated that up to 90% of Burmese jade was smuggled out of the country and almost all shipped to China, “highlighting the highly illegal nature of the industry”.

It is estimated that 50% to 80% of jade was smuggled before the permit was suspended, and the transaction never entered the official system of Myanmar.

“As a result, the resources of Kachin State have been looted and hardly benefit the people of Kachin State or the state, because the jade income can be used to support key needs such as health care and education,” the report said.

As a Burmese citizen fighting the country’s military ruler, activist Me Me Khant urged the international community to impose sanctions on top military leaders and companies involved in the mining of jade and other gems.

She also urged the international community to persuade China to abandon the jade trade with Myanmar.

“It is necessary to carry out large-scale public awareness campaigns around this issue to discourage consumers, especially consumers in China,” she said.

But Dietz of Global Witness said that as long as a military dictatorship exists, it is impossible to cut off the illegal jade trade.

“The immediate priority for the international community should be to end the coup d’etat and help ensure that a democratic and legitimate government is back in power,” he said.

Global Witness also called on the international community to immediately ban the import of all jade and gemstones mined in Myanmar.

In the long run, the international community must support the future legitimate government to remove the military and other armed groups from the jade industry and place natural resource governance at the core of the peace talks.

“As long as gunmen control the enormous wealth generated by one of Myanmar’s greatest natural treasures, there will be no peace or democracy,” Dietz said.



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