Myanmar: Proposed gemstone law fails to address human rights problems in jade industry
Author: Hanna Hindstrom, Global Witness, Published on: 2 December 2018
"Back to business as usual in Myanmar's jade mines?" 28 November 2018
FOR OVER two decades, the world-famous jade mines in Hpakant in Kachin State have been associated with the horrors of Tatmadaw rule and civil war: military-linked entities looting resources from ethnic minority areas, poverty, and environmental devastation. The jade industry has also been linked to endemic drug use, smuggling, corruption and other illicit activities including informal taxation by armed groups, and armed conflict leading to widespread human rights abuses against local communities.
When Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy government announced a suspension of gemstone permits in 2016, there was cause for optimism that the conflict and corruption-tainted sector would be reformed and would begin to contribute to the country and Kachin State’s development.
...[A] new, deeply problematic gemstone law is expected to be passed in the current session of parliament, suggesting it could soon be back to business as usual in Myanmar’s jade mines. The latest, publicly available draft of the law does not address the deep-seated problems in the jade industry...
...[T]here is nothing in the new law to prevent companies with a track record of human rights abuses, environmental destruction, corruption, and violence from obtaining licenses. Civil society groups have recommeneded that past behaviour be taken into account in the permitting process but this appears to have been ignored...
...[T]he law does not deal with the serious conflicts of interest within the Myanmar Gems Enterprise, allowing it to continue to operate both as a regulator that issues jade licenses and as a business entity, controlling lucrative mines through joint-ventures with numerous companies, including military-owned and linked entities.
It has not been aligned with a far more progressive new Gemstone Policy, developed in an open, participatory process for the most part, with worryingly little overlap or coordination...
The drafting of a new law offers an unrivalled opportunity to stamp out corruption and abuse in the jade sector, adopt sustainable mining practices and allow the people of Myanmar to finally begin to reap the rewards of their country’s natural resource wealth. To do this, the parliament should coordinate with the Ministry for Natural Resources and Environmental Conservation to ensure the gemstone law follows the policy being developed – not rush forward with a new law that would do little to address the issues plaguing the gemstone industry.