Burma Govt Facilitating the Mining of Amber on IDP Land, Report Says

Thursday, August 22, 2019

The government has granted permission to non-local people to mine for amber in Tanai, Kachin State home to people displaced by conflict, according to a new report launched by the
Kachin Development Network Group (KDNG)

KDNG held a press conference and shared its 55-page report, “Blood Amber,” in the Orchid Hotel in Yangon on August 20.

“While indigenous people cannot go back to their native areas, the government gives extraction permits to non-local people and businessmen for amber mining. It’s intentionally abusive to indigenous people’s rights. It should not be like this,” KDNG general secretary Tsa Ji said. “The situation is totally upside down.”

While many Kachin people from Tanai have sought refuge in internally displaced people’s (IDP) camps, the authorities issued extraction licenses for amber mining in Tanai’s Hukawng Valley, KDNG alleges.

“The government already announced that it would officially open amber mines. Many people were secretly digging for amber in the mines before government made this announcement. They have been illegally digging amber with the help of government officials,” Naw Tawng, who lives in Tanai, told NMG.

Naw Tawng said that the search for amber in Tanai grew once fighting in the area died down, and involved people who had migrated there from across Burma. The Burma Army and the Kachin Independence Army clashed in Tanai from June 2017 until October 2018.

Amber mining began quietly in mid-June 2018, in the final months of the offensive. By September Tanai parliamentarian U Lin Lin and Hpakant parliamentarian U Tint Soe requested that the government allow small-scale amber extraction.

“After the clashes were over, many people came into the Tanai area. The government had already announced that both local and non-local people could apply for private extraction licenses. At that time, many locals sought refuge in IDP camps. So they didn’t work in the amber or gold mines,” Naw Tawng explained.

Tanai locals said that the military regularly checks family registration documents, ID cards, and the origin of names of people trying to travel into amber-rich areas of Tanai, including Zee Phyu Kon and Kham Ja.

“Local people are not allowed to go into this area… local people are not allowed to go into the amber mines or gold mines,” a local told NMG.

The fear among community members is that they will become landless as mining for amber increases.

“In practice, this is an area where blood has been shed,” KDNG’s Tsa Ji said, referring to both the title of the report, and the red amber found in Tanai, which is locally known as “blood amber.”

“Many indigenous people have had to run away and have become IDPs. We want all people to understand the real situation,” he added.

KDNG said that the military launched a major offensive in 2018 to take control of the amber-rich Hukawng Valley, where the Ledo Road—connecting China and India—is also located. Their aim, the organization reported, was to control this strategic location and the natural resources around it.