Myanmar's military involved in jade trade - report

2015-10-23 19:21
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Yangon - Families of Myanmar's ruling military elite are "major players" in the country's highly lucrative trade in jade, a report said on Friday, while the government announced its own seizures of precious stones from smugglers in the country.

International anti-corruption group Global Witness said relatives of former dictator Than Shwe and other senior government officials were benefitting financially from the sale of jade, which the group estimated at worth about $31 billion dollars in 2014.

This would amount to about half of the country's official gross domestic product. Official jade exports were worth around $1bn in the fiscal year 2013-14.

Jade in Myanmar is mostly mined in the Kachin state, where it has fuelled years of strife and conflict, Global Witness said.

"Conditions around the mines are often fatally dangerous and drugs and prostitution are endemic, while those who stand in the way of the guns and machines face land grabs, intimidation and violence," the group said.

Officers in Myanmar's army stationed in Kachin were running "an elaborate extortion racket," the report said.

Rebel group

Win Htein, the director general from the Ministry of Mines admitted that vast quantities of jade are sold on the black market, although the official sales route is the biannual jade markets, or emporiums.

"We just hold emporiums twice a year and it is easier for people to cross the border and sell the jade to China," he said.

"An armed group can help them do so," he added, referring to the ethnic rebel group Kachin Independence Army.

The government also announced on Friday that it had seized precious stones from smugglers worth nearly $6m since December 2012, when the central committee for control of illegal trade was set up by President Thein Sein.


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