Guards working at a jade mine in northwestern Myanmar’s Sagaing region fired on migrant workers trying to scavenge gems from the site on Wednesday, killing four, sources in the country said.
The incident at the Nansibon Jade Mine near Hkamti township came amid growing tensions between companies working at the site and scavengers trespassing on authorized mining areas.
Wednesday’s shooting by armed security guards left four dead and 11 others wounded, a Hkamti resident told RFA’s Myanmar Service.
“Four people were killed and 11 were injured,” Aung San Myint told RFA. “Five out of the 11 were sent to a hospital, and the others are on their way there now.”
Also speaking to RFA, U Kawwida, a Buddhist monk who visited the wounded workers in the hospital, said the scavengers had entered the mining site on Wednesday morning to search for jade, adding, “They had to run away because police shot at them.”
“Four were killed, and five were sent to a hospital,” he said. “One of them is now in critical condition.”
Freelance miners had been warned not to enter the mine, which is operated by the military-backed Union of Myanma Economic Holdings Ltd. (UMEHL), local lawmaker Maung Tay told the Agence France-Press (AFP) news service on Wednesday.
“But the miners went there this morning and they shot them,” Maung Tay said, quoted by AFP.
Hundreds of migrant workers have moved into Nansibon in recent years to search for cast-off stones, and clashes between scavengers and mining companies are now common, The Myanmar Times said in an April 28 report.
Company property and assets have been damaged by migrant workers who search for jade in restricted areas, the Times said.
At one company alone, “seven dump trucks, four backhoes and about 120 fuel barrels, as well as towers and fences were destroyed,” the Times said, adding that company employees have also been threatened.
“No solution has been found so far,” the Times said.
Jade mining by army-linked companies and competing groups in northern Myanmar’s neighboring Kachin state is meanwhile driving ethnic conflict in the war-torn region, making hopes for a nationwide peace settlement difficult to achieve, a new film, "Jade and the Generals," by the London-based NGO Global Witness says.
“Both army units and the ethnic armed groups which oppose them take huge revenues from taxation and extortion” in the multi-billion-dollar industry, Global Witness said in a May 17 press release announcing the film’s release.
“Kachin’s jade riches need to be managed in the interests of its people, not men with guns,” Global Witness said.
Reported by Wai Mar Tun for RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Khet Mar. Written in English by Richard Finney.