China gearing up for gold pickings in northern Burma

Loads of gold are ready to be taken away by a Chinese mineral company from Burma's northeast Kachin state after the firm found a gold load in the area during a successful preliminary test in late 2008, said local sources.

An abundance of gold was found in the areas around Khaunglanhpu (Hkawnglang Hpu) near Kachin state's second largest N'Mai River following a recent joint exploration by Hla Pyit Win company owned by Ahdang and a Chinese mineral company from China's Hunan province, said sources in Khaunglanhpu.

Businessman Ahdang also called Tanggu Dang is the leader of the pro-Burmese junta militia group called the Rebellion Resistance Force (RRF or Ta-Ka-Sa-Pha) based in Shing Hkong near Khaunglanhpu. The group has been permitted to dig for gold and other minerals in the area by the junta, according to residents of Khaunglanhpu.

The area was famous for gold exploration during British rule in Burma from 1824 to 1948, according to businessmen in Myitkyina, the capital of Kachin state.

On January 22, Ahdang and his delegates met a group of Chinese businessmen from a gold company from Hunan province in Yingjiang city in China's Yunnan province. The meeting mainly discussed the Chinese company's desire to start gold mining in the areas soon, said sources close to both.

According to sources close to Ahdang, the final discussion between them will be held in Myitkyina, soon and they will start gold mining from early this year.

Ahdang threatens lives of locals' dependant on gold

Ahdang's militia group and the junta threaten the survival of local people who traditionally depend on gold mining work because they have taken control of all gold mining fields from the local people, said locals.

All these years, people in Khaunglanhpu have survived by exchanging gold with food on the China border because of the extreme wet weather in their areas do not permit growing crops except some corns, according to locals.

In this situation, local people who mine gold on a 30-mile stretch along Shang Hti River in southeast Khaunglanhpu have been completely prohibited from mining gold since early this month by Ahdang and U Ye Khong, chairman of the junta's Khaunglanhpu administration office or city peace and development council. It has said "nobody can mine gold without permits," said locals.

Local sources said Ahdang has already received 20 million kyats (US $17,857) from the Chinese company as preliminary cash for selling gold mining fields in the river area.

At the same time, Ahdang's Hla Pyit Win Company also confiscated several acres of land from local people around Khaunglanhpu for gold mining purposes, added locals.

There are over 30,000 people in Khaunglanhpu and they are extremely worried about their survival because their rice pots -- 'gold mining fields' will be handed over to the Chinese gold mining company.

Locals hate Ahdang and his militia group

Businessman Ahdang and RRF led by him have generated a lot of hate among Rawang tribes in Kachin state. People from the same tribe with him are in Putao, Nong Mong (Naw Mung) and Khaunglanhpu areas where Rawang tribes are mainly concentrated, according to locals.

Ahdang is accused of selling young Rawang people to the Burmese ruling junta. He also recruited Rawang people for his militia group and sent them to war between the Burmese Army and the Karen National Union (KNU) to fight on the Burmese Army side.

In 2007, September, just before the monk-led demonstration in Burma, Ahdang made fresh military recruitment of Rawang youth in Putao district for his militia group. Over 300 Rawang youth were sent to Naypyidaw, the new capital of Burma's ruling junta for military training.

When they came back home in early 2008, they were forcibly recruited in the Burmese military battalions in Putao and only a few people were allowed to go back to RRF.  For this reason, many Rawang youth in RRF fled from the group headquarters in Shing Hkong near Khaunglanhpu and the group is now left with only over 100 soldiers, said residents of Putao.

Besides, the people in Khaunglanhpu are always harshly treated by Ahdang's troops while they are crossing their gates on the roads and bridges, added locals.

Earlier, Rawang people generally supported the formation of the RRF because Ahdang made them believe that the RRF will protect and help in the upliftment of Rawang tribes in Putao, local sources said.

Ahdang and RRF

Ahdang is a jade tycoon and owns the Mali Hka Recording Studio in Myitkyina.  He is a close friend of Maj-Gen Ohn Myint, former Northern Regional Command (Ma Pa Kha) commander of the junta.

Before he formed the RRF, he was a member of the New Democratic Army-Kachin (NDA-K), which signed a ceasefire agreement with the ruling junta on January 4, 1989.  He split with over 20 followers along with their small arms from the NDA-K in late 2005 and formed the RRF with financial and military support from Maj-Gen Ohn Myint.

Ahdang is also a member of the Kachin State Interim Committee (KSIC), which will form a state-representative political party and contest the 2010 general elections in Kachin state.  The KSIC was formed by the two main Kachin ceasefire groups—Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) and NDA-K, and the Kachin Nationals' Consultative Assembly (KNCA), an umbrella organization of all Kachins in Burma.

(Nawdin Lahpai is editor of Kachin News Group, KNG)