The office of a jade-mining company in Myanmar’s resource-rich Hpakant region was blown up by assailants on Thursday, the latest such attack on a mining firm in the country’s volatile Kachin state, according to a company official and local police.
Yadanar Yaung Chi Company, which mined more than 200 tons of jade stones in October, lost at least U.S. $5 million dollars’ worth of machinery and equipment in the fire caused by the blast, said Kyaw Aye, the head of the concern.
Police Colonel Tun Oo, chief of police in Kachin state, told RFA’s Myanmar Service that he believed the attackers are members of the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), an ethnic armed group that is engaged in clashes with the national military in the state.
“About 18 men and two women from the KIA had guns and forced 30 company employees to lower their heads, then destroyed the company’s property,” he said. “The attackers also took 1 million kyats (U.S. $7,630) and two cell phones.”
Kyaw Aye told RFA’s Myanmar Service that only government authorities know who staged the attack.
But Lieutenant Colonel Htan Sant, commander of the KIA’s No. 6 Battalion, denied that the rebel army was involved in the explosion.
Government soldiers and local security forces found unexploded homemade bombs during a clearance operation of the area after the blast, sources said.
Other blasts this year
Many explosions have rocked Hpakant, targeting mining companies, government buildings, and bridges since a cease-fire between KIA and government military broke down in 2012.
In May, unknown assailants blew up the offices of two jade-mining companies in Hpakant township, destroying heavy vehicles, trucks, and workers’ hostels.
The first explosion occurred at Yadanar Moe Myay Mining Company Ltd. where about 10 men exploded handmade mines in apparent retaliation for the operator’s refusal to give in to demands for “taxes” by local extortionists, according to a report at the time by Democratic Voice of Burma.
The men then went to Linn Htet Aung Company where they exploded handmade mines, according to a local village administrator.
The explosions did not appear to have caused any injuries or deaths.
Another explosion rocked the area on May 8, injuring a woman and three men and destroying buildings and heavy vehicles from three companies.
Hpakant contains many lucrative jade mining operations that have come under fire for creating mountainous slag heaps, some of which have caused deadly landslides.
Rights groups routinely criticize the companies for the detrimental social and environmental impacts of their activities in the largely unregulated industry.
Reported by Kyaw Myo Min for RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Kyaw Aung. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.