Hpakant, Burma — The Kachin Independence Army's (KIA) Battalion 6 has set new rules for mining firms operating in the Hpakant jade mining district, (also Hpakan, or Phakant) in the west of Burma’s Kachin State, according to businessman in the area.
Though many firms have withdrawn or scaled down their jade mining operations in Hpakant over the past few weeks some firms continue to conduct large scale jade mining projects despite the fact that there is heavy fighting ongoing in the area between government troops and the KIA.
A businessman who spoke to the Kachin News Group on condition of anonymity said that new rules that officially went into effect on September 5 apply to every firm that operates in the Hpakant region.
The rules forbid each firm from having more than 10 security guards and stipulate that these guards must register with the Hpakant-based KIA’s Battalion 6 and present proper identification papers.
The rules also state that the KIA must be informed of any visits to the firms mining operations by Burmese government staff or military troops.
Under the new rules each firm is forbidden from restricting or interfering with the work of local small scale jade miners.
According to the businessman KIA Battalion 6 commander Major N’hkum Zau Doi informed the firms that there would be consequences for not following the new rules. And any of these consequences would be the fault of the firms themselves for not obeying the rules not the responsibility of the KIA.
Over the last week all village headmen from the jade mining areas were twice invited to the KIO’s battalion 6 headquarters at Ginsi-Seng Ra where they were asked to avoid looting equipment and jadestones from firms whose operations have been shut down or abandoned since the fighting began.
Major Zau Doi and other KIA officials have blamed the 9 major Burmese owned mining firms that are operating in the area for escalating the conflict in the jade mining region. Major Zau Doi is known to have claimed that the companies, some of whom are controlled by notorious cronies associated with the Than Shwe regime, had encouraged Burma's armed forces to drive the KIA out of the jade mining district with offers of cash payments, KIA officials say.
Over the past few weeks Burmese military units have also operated out of the Hpakant based compounds of mining firms. This has brought the firms into direct confrontation with the KIA who have responded by attacking the compounds. Large explosions reportedly caused by the Kachin resistance have recently taken place at the compounds of two mining firms said to be housing Burmese troops. On August 28 there was an explosion at the Mya Tauk Kyay company compound and the next day a much larger and more lethal one at the compound of Wai Aung Kaba which killed as many 140 Burmese soldiers.
Recent fighting in the Hpakant region has forced thousands of local residents to flee over the past few weeks.