Speaker calls off crack­down on jade pick­ers

The Myanmar Times - - News - MAUNG ZAW maungzaw@mm­times.com

THE up­per house Speaker is call­ing for a more lax han­dling of itin­er­ant jade scav­engers after a spate of re­cent ar­rests led to pub­lic out­cry and protests.

Mahn Win Khaing Than sent a let­ter over the week­end to the Sa­gaing Re­gion gov­ern­ment, sug­gest­ing that they ease off a law that led to the con­tro­ver­sial ar­rest of seven jade prospec­tors in Hkamti town­ship last month.

The Speaker sent the let­ter on the urg­ing of the Amyotha Hlut­taw Nat­u­ral Re­sources and En­vi­ron­men­tal Con­ser­va­tion Com­mit­tee, ac­cord­ing to com­mit­tee chair U Kyaw Thiha (NLD; Man­dalay 12).

On Septem­ber 26, more than 2000 peo­ple in Hkamti protested the crack­down on jade scav­engers, claim­ing that the laws could jeop­ar­dise the liveli­hood of a sub­stan­tial num­ber of the res­i­dents.

Un­der the cur­rent Myan­mar Gem­stones Law, aside from li­censed com­pa­nies, any­one found in pos­ses­sion of raw gem­stones may be sen­tenced to a max­i­mum of seven years in prison.

Un­der the law, ex­plo­ration li­cences are only granted to large min­ing com­pa­nies for 10-year terms and to medium-sized com­pa­nies for five years. There is cur­rently no pro­vi­sion in the leg­is­la­tion to grant li­cences for small min­ing plots.

“We rec­om­mended they find a so­lu­tion con­ve­nient for both sides,” U Kyaw Thiha said. “We sent the com­mit­tee’s find­ings re­lat­ing to the ar­rest of jade scav­engers to the Amyotha Hlut­taw Speaker. He sent them along to the Sa­gaing Re­gion gov­ern­ment on Oc­to­ber 7.”

The let­ter makes sug­ges­tions for a po­ten­tial third amend­ment to the Myan­mar Gem­stone Law, which was last up­dated in Jan­uary. The com­mit­tee agreed that ar­rest­ing jade prospec­tors could lead to un­de­sir­able con­se­quences, and rec­om­mended lib­er­al­is­ing the law to ben­e­fit lo­cal peo­ple.

“We found that the Sa­gaing Re­gion gov­ern­ment is over­step­ping its bound­aries in ar­rest­ing jade scav­engers,” said MP U Aung Than Sein (NLD; Hkamti). “Then, rel­e­vant MPs did not know about the ar­rest. They found out about it only when the prob­lem oc­curred.”

The ar­rests were con­ducted Septem­ber 17 to 19, fol­low­ing a gov­ern­ment crack­down on peo­ple found in pos­ses­sion of il­le­gal gem­stones. The move of au­thor­i­ties check­ing and ar­rest­ing jade prospec­tors in the en­trance of Hkamti who come back home from Nan­sipun jade and gold min­ing area com­menc­ing Septem­ber 17 could lead to job scarcity for lo­cals.

“While try­ing to amend the Gem­stone Law in the Amyotha Hlut­taw, th­ese kinds of ar­rest could lead to prob­lems,” said Nyi Nyi Htwe (NLD; Sa­gaing 11). “Lo­cals have to make their liv­ing prospect­ing jade in Nan­sipun. We should not ne­glect that.”

– Trans­la­tion by Thiri Min Htun

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