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Two senior government officials have been sacked in connection with unregulated jade mining operations in the country’s north, according to a President’s Office representative.
Zaw Htay, deputy-director of the President’s Office, said two officials were dismissed, naming Customs Department Director-General Tun Thein and Trade and Commerce Director-General Nyunt Aung. The pair were linked with the illegal import of heavy machinery into mining sites in Hpakant, Kachin State — as jade companies scramble to extract as much of the valuable stone as possible before the next government takes office.
“The President’s Office issued retirement orders for the Myanmar Customs Department U Tun Thein and the Ministry of Commerce’s U Nyunt Aung – and the concerned ministries are continuing action on ranks of officials who worked under them,” said Zaw Htay.
He said the two were punished by the President’s Office as they were directly appointed by the president to their former positions.
“The punishments came in connection with an investigation into the importation of heavy machinery to Hpakant from the border, carried out by the Forestry and Environment Conservation union minister U Win Htun.
“They recently presented the findings in a report to the President’s Office so the president took appropriate actions on the two,” said Zaw Htay.
Accusations regarding the use of illegally imported machinery have swirled in recent months, with miners also complaining that they could not compete with the heavy extractive machines used by large-scale Chinese firms to pillage Kachin landscape for jade.
The investigations findings come in the wake of damning reports from drug-ridden Kachin State, where opium production, mining corruption and a slew of deadly accidents have cast a long shadow on the country’s attempts to join the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative as a fully-fledged member.
The global scheme to tackle corruption in the mining sector requires successful member states to identify the ‘ultimate beneficial’ recipients of the profits. Global Witness, a London-based resource watchdog, estimated the value of Burma’s jade trade at $31 billion – but precious little of that sum makes its’ way into the pockets of small-scale miners and the community, instead going into the coffers of military linked cronies and Chinese mining outfits.
Nay Win, an MP in the Kachin regional assembly, said the state incumbent government’s secretary Zaw Thein was also dismissed from his position in connection with the case.
“I heard that [Zaw Thein] was also dismissed but I don’t know the exact details – that’s just what I heard about a week ago. I heard he was packing up his bags the other day,” Nay Win said.