Civic Organizations Unhappy Investigation Into Hpakant Landslide Hasn’t Been Published

By Network Media Group
Thursday, August 13, 2020

Civic organizations are dissatisfied that an investigation into the tragic landslide on July 2 in Burma’s Hpakant area that killed over 180 miners and injured 54 hasn’t been published.

Nawng Latt, with Greenland Environmental Conservation, told NMG that a resolution for the Gwi Hka landslide is crucial. Many are waiting to see what “action” will be taken.

“How will the government take responsibility for it? The government’s action is very important. The investigation commission can’t release its report, even though it’s already been one month. What’s wrong with them? Why is it delayed?”

Chief Minister of Kachin State Dr Khet Awng said the findings of the investigation into the accident in Kachin State was sent to Burma’s President Win Myint on July 17.

Lahtaw Kai Rein, spokesperson for Kachin National Social Development Foundation, told NMG that jade mining companies violated the country’s Gem Law. “No-one can extract jade near villages.”

Thousands of jade mining companies operate in the Hpakant and some are using massive earth movers and other large tools to extract jade, she said. “The Gem Law already states how much dynamite is allowed for a jade mining block. But in practice, companies are using excessive amounts of this and it’s why landslides are so frequent. “Every year, the landslides cause hundreds of deaths, Lahtaw Kai Rein said. The companies are only allowed to remove up to 50 feet of soil from the pits, but they are exceeding that. “I don’t see that the jade companies are following the guidelines.”

Since the NLD government came to power, there have not been new mining licenses issued for Hpakant. But companies whose licenses haven’t expired continue to extract jade, Lahtaw Kai Rein said. The problem is “no-one knows who has a license because there is no transparency.”

Kachin Peace Network’s Hkawn Ja believes Myanmar Economic Holdings Public Company Limited (MEHL), a major conglomerate run by the Burma Army, and its subsidiary companies hold all the mining licenses. Because it is unclear which companies are licensed and which are operating illegally in the mines, it is difficult for the government to act against them.

“Nobody knows who has a jade extraction license. As a result, parliamentarians can’t monitor the mining because they don’t know how many acres are allocated for each mining block. And they don’t know if the jade companies are following the guidelines.”

The fact that the investigation into the Gwi Hka landslide remains unpublished, Nawng Latt said, shows the government is not paying attention to the issue. “If this happens again, I don’t know if they will act because until today nothing has been done.”

The investigation commission is prioritizing a small group of elites over the common citizen and why it can’t publish the report, Nawng Latt told NMG. “I think the system is broken.”