Rights group says sanc­tions must stay

The Myanmar Times - - Front Page - KAYLEIGH LONG k.long@mm­times.com

Trans­parency watch­dog Global Wit­ness has called for US sanc­tions to re­main ahead of State Coun­sel­lor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s visit to Washington.

PRE­MA­TURE rolling back of sanc­tions could risk un­do­ing progress made so far in Myan­mar’s demo­cratic tran­si­tion, re­sources watch­dog Global Wit­ness has warned, urg­ing that tar­geted sanc­tions on the cor­rup­tion­rid­dled jade in­dus­try re­main in place.

Global Wit­ness, an in­ter­na­tional body ded­i­cated to ex­pos­ing cor­rup­tion and im­prov­ing trans­parency, last year es­ti­mated the jade trade to be worth some US$31 bil­lion in 2014 alone – about 48 per­cent of GDP.

In a state­ment re­leased yes­ter­day, Global Wit­ness cau­tioned that the jade in­dus­try re­mains “firmly in the grip of mil­i­tary elites, US-sanc­tioned drug lords and crony com­pa­nies”.

Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s land­mark visit to the United States to meet with Pres­i­dent Barack Obama this week presents a “golden op­por­tu­nity” to pro­vide the NLD-led gov­ern­ment “with the am­mu­ni­tion it needs to rel­e­gate cor­rupt mil­i­tary rule to its past”, Global Wit­ness said.

Ju­man Kubba, se­nior cam­paigner with Global Wit­ness, said sanc­tions on the jade trade re­main an im­por­tant mech­a­nism in the peace process – par­tic­u­larly when it comes to the con­flict-af­flicted jade hub of Kachin State.

“Jade is in­ter­twined with the in­tractable armed con­flict in Kachin State, and re­mov­ing sanc­tions takes away a key lever to achieve the last­ing peace lo­cal peo­ple de­serve … Re­mov­ing a tool which could help to bring the right par­ties to the ta­ble would make get­ting to this goal much harder,” Ms Kubba told The Myan­mar Times by email yes­ter­day.

The US has re­laxed many of the sanc­tions im­posed in Myan­mar, and faces in­tense pres­sure from the business lobby.

Global Wit­ness pointed to the lob­by­ing ef­forts of US-based ma­chin­ery man­u­fac­turer Cater­pil­lar as a prime ex­am­ple of the im­por­tance of sanc­tions, and the lever­age they can pro­vide. Re­search car­ried out by Global Wit­ness un­cov­ered that Cater­pil­lar had part­nered lo­cally with a front com­pany linked to US-sanc­tioned drug lord Wei Hsueh-Kang.

Wei Hsueh-Kang, also known as Pr­a­sit Chivin­ni­ti­pa­nya, sits on the US most-wanted list with a US$2 mil­lion bounty. He is also the com­man­der of the United Wa State Army’s (UWSA) south­ern com­mand – the coun­try’s largest non-state armed group. The UWSA is be­lieved to be a ma­jor player in the heroin, metham­phetamine and jade trades.

Ms Kubba said early at­tempts by the new gov­ern­ment to rein in the jade in­dus­try are a wel­come de­vel­op­ment.

“No­tably, there has been [move­ment] on jade min­ing per­mits, with no li­cences be­ing ex­tended or new li­cences be­ing granted un­til a re­vised le­gal frame­work is in place. This is crit­i­cal in cre­at­ing the space for change,” she said.

“In­creas­ing trans­parency in the sec­tor, and strength­en­ing the reg­u­lated mar­ket is an im­por­tant part of im­prov­ing the jade sec­tor, and mak­ing sure the ben­e­fits reach Myan­mar’s peo­ple.”

Photo: AFP

Work­ers wait for a truck to un­load in Hpakant jade min­ing area.

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