Myanmar soldiers and Red Cross workers carry a body recovered from the site of a landslide in Hpakant in Kachin State on July 4. (AFP)
Myanmar soldiers and Red Cross workers carry a body recovered from the site of a landslide in Hpakant in Kachin State on July 4. (AFP)

Myanmar army sacks officers over landslide tragedy


YANGON — Two high-ranking officers were fired for having “failed their responsibilities” after a landslide in Myanmar killed at least 174 jade miners, the country’s military said on Monday in a rare public sanctioning. 

Heavy monsoon rains last Thursday sent mud cascading down a hillside over workers scouring the land for the green gemstone in Hpakant in northern Kachin State.

The victims were largely poor migrants who had travelled across the country to prospect in the treacherous open-cast mines, hoping to find valuable stones left behind by the big companies.

It was the worst tragedy in living memory to hit the shadowy, multi-billion dollar industry dominated by firms linked to the military.

A Facebook post Monday by the military announced Kachin Security and Border Affairs Minister Colonel Nay Lin Tun and another unnamed commander had been removed from their posts.

“They were responsible for reporting any trespassing in this restricted area,” spokesperson Brigadier General Zaw Min Tun told AFP. 

“They failed their responsibilities.”

The military would hold an investigation and appropriate action against the two men would be taken, he added.

Unidentified miners have been buried in mass graves, while many more remain missing.

They join scores of informal prospectors killed each year in Hpakant as they search for the stone so highly prized over the border in China.

The industry is mired in secrecy. Environmental watchdog Global Witness alleges operators are linked to the military elite and its cronies.

The group estimated the industry was worth some US$31 billion in 2014, although very little reaches state coffers.

Some compensation has been handed to the families of the deceased, but observers have criticised the government for a perceived lack of sympathy.

Environment Minister Ohn Win told local media Sunday that “greedy” miners were to blame while civilian leader State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi has not released a formal statement.

Ethnic Kachin insurgents and the military have been fighting over northern Myanmar’s natural resources and the revenues they bring for decades.

The whole industry is a “massive organised crime operation” that exploits those at the bottom, said Yangon-based independent analyst Mr Richard Horsey.

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on email

More stories

Latest Issue

Stories in this issue
Myanmar enters 2021 with more friends than foes
The early delivery of vaccines is one of the many boons of the country’s geopolitics, but to really take advantage, Myanmar must bury the legacy of its isolationist past.
Will the Kayin BGF go quietly?
The Kayin State Border Guard Force has come under intense pressure from the Tatmadaw over its extensive, controversial business interests and there’s concern the ultimatum could trigger fresh hostilities in one of the country’s most war-torn areas.

Support our independent journalism and get exclusive behind-the-scenes content and analysis

Stay on top of Myanmar current affairs with our Daily Briefing and Media Monitor newsletters.

Sign up for our Frontier Fridays newsletter. It’s a free weekly round-up featuring the most important events shaping Myanmar