Myanmar military elite ‘profits from $31bn jade trade’


Jade mining companies connected to the army in Myanmar may have carried out “the biggest natural resources heist in modern history”, say transparency campaigners Global Witness.

Their report claims jade valued at a staggering almost $31bn (£20bn) was extracted from Burmese mines last year.
It estimates that the figure for the last decade could be more than $120bn.

Presented with the data by the BBC, the government did not question the quantity or valuation of the jade.
But it said most of the gemstones from the last year had been stockpiled, with only a small fraction sold so far.

Hpakant, in Kachin state, is the site of the world’s biggest jade mine. We were stopped from travelling there by the chief minister, but footage obtained from the site shows huge articulated vehicles turning mountains into moonscapes.
With an election on the horizon and considerable political uncertainty the companies involved are clearly in a hurry.
To operate a mine in Hpakant you need military connections. The main companies listed in the Global Witness report are either directly owned by the army, or operated by those with close ties.

A few are run by those connected to ethnic armies, in return for them maintaining a ceasefire. “If a military family does not have a jade company they are something of a black sheep,” Mike Davis from Global Witness said. “These families are making extraordinary sums of money, often in the tens and hundreds of millions of dollars.”

Prominent among those allegedly profiting from the trade are jade companies owned by the family of retired senior general Than Shwe. As the military ruler of Myanmar, also known as Burma, between 1992 and 2011, he presided over a period in which demonstrations were brutally repressed and opponents imprisoned. Despite having retired many still think he’s influential behind the scenes.

The Global Witness report – Jade: Myanmar’s ‘Big State Secret’ – claims that companies connected to Than Shwe’s family made more than $220m in jade sales in 2013 and 2014.

Several of the other companies are linked to recent ministers but most named were at their most prominent before Thein Sein’s quasi-civilian government came to power in 2011. None were immediately available for comment.

More than a year in the making, this report digs deep into previously unseen Burmese government figures.
To reach the headline number of nearly $31bn extracted in 2014 they took the officially recorded figure for jade production (16,684 tonnes) and then estimated, based on previous studies, the proportion that’s likely to have been mined of each quality or “grade”.

Using the prices for each grade from publically recorded sales they then calculated the likely total value of jade production. That came to a jaw-dropping $30.859bn.

To double-check this number, Global Witness then obtained customs data for jade imports into China. Last year precious and semi-precious stone imports from Myanmar were valued at $12.3bn on a weight of 5,402 tonnes. The researchers’ analysis of the data shows that almost all of that was jade.

Using the officially declared production figure for 2014, and keeping all things equal (to the average value of declared imports into China) then the estimated value for the jade mined in 2014 is $37.98bn.

Clearly in both methods estimates are being used, but the ballpark figure remains similar and huge. The real total could even be much higher with many insiders saying that the best quality jade never goes through the books and is smuggled directly to Chinese buyers.

This contents of the report challenges the Burmese army narrative of recent history. The military has long said that it keeps a tight control of Burmese political life to maintain stability and, in the face of numerous ethnic wars, to prevent the country disintegrating.

It was, the people were told, a selfless act to maintain the unity of a troubled country. This report makes it clearer than ever before that the top brass used their privileged positions to award themselves choice concessions and contracts and become extremely rich.

Ye Htay, a director from the Ministry of Mining, confirmed that the valuation of the jade mined in 2014 at $31bn was plausible, but said that most of it had been stockpiled and not sold.

Sales through the Nay Pyi Taw emporium last year were close to $1bn, he said, with about $90m paid in taxes.
He was much less forthcoming when pressed on how the concessions were awarded and the dominance of military companies.

He said Myanmar was “in a stage of democratic transition” and that such moves “haven’t happened during the last five years”.

There is an element of truth in that. The most egregious abuses do seem to date back to before 2010, and all agree that there have been moves towards greater transparency.

This report underscores just how difficult it will be to prise the Burmese army away from political power. It also helps explain why the conflict in Kachin State, where the mines are, has proved so difficult to resolve.

Last week, rebels from the Kachin Independence Army refused to sign a nationwide agreement with the government – aimed at ending decades of civil conflict – and clashes with the Burmese army continue. “Jade is a key source of financing for both sides,” Mike Davis told me.

“There is an incentive there for the hardliners on the government side to keep the conflict going until such time as they can be confident that when the dust settles, their assets will still be there.”

Most proposals for a lasting federal settlement to Myanmar’s long running ethnic conflicts involve greater transparency and the sharing of wealth from natural resources in the states where they are extracted.

It’s easy to see why peace and democratic transformation aren’t attractive options for those making hundreds of millions from exploiting the jade mines.



Myanmar’s military elite make £20bn from jade trade


A 12-month investigation has revealed Myanmar’s secretive £20bn jade trade, which is controlled by notorious Burmese military leaders and drug lords who maintain an exclusive grip on the lucrative gemstone business.

The report, released on Friday by Global Witness, says that ahead of elections next month the findings show how much powerful elites and former rulers have to lose from open and fair polls. The election has been presented to the world as one of the country’s final steps towards democratic reform.

“Myanmar’s jade business may be the biggest natural resource heist in modern history. Since 2011, a rebranded government has told the world it is turning the page on the ruthless military rule, cronyism and human rights abuses of the past,” said Global Witness analyst Juman Kubba.

“But jade – the country’s most valuable natural resource and a gemstone synonymous with glitz and glamour – reveals a very different reality.

“This massive, dirty business is still controlled by a rogues’ gallery of former generals, drug barons and men with guns. Hidden behind obscure companies and proxy owners, these elites cream off vast profits while local people suffer terrible abuses and see their natural inheritance ripped out from beneath their feet.”

The 128-page report by the London-based group puts the value of Myanmar’s jade production as high as £20bn in 2014 alone. This figure equates to nearly half of the entire country’s GDP and over 46 times national spending on health.

The report says relatives of notorious figures, including former dictator Than Shwe and ruling party members Ohn Myint and Maung Maung Thein, are major players in the jade industry. Than Shwe’s junta was criticised for human rights abuses before he stood down in 2011.

Myanmar’s armed forces, officially known as the Tatmadaw, and drug lord Wei Hsueh Kang, wanted by the US on drugs charges and carrying a $2m reward, are also key beneficiaries, the report says.

“We’re very confident about the roles of the families of Than Shwe, Ohn Myint and Maung Maung Thein,” Mike Davis, Asia director at Global Witness, told the Guardian. “We have quite a depth of evidence on all three cases, based around jade business insider testimony, company records and official documents and maps showing what companies have what jade mines.”

The information on the sums of money that their families’ companies made came from official records of the government-organised Myanmar Gems Emporium events in 2013 and 2014, Davis said.

The dark green rock is mostly sold to Myanmar’s northern neighbour China, to be used in jewellery and ornaments. A necklace made of jade beads was sold for £17.7m at an auction in Hong Kong last year.

The report says the destructive industrial mining of jade is also fuelling a separatist conflict in Myanmar’s northern Kachin state, where the central government is battling the 10,000-strong Kachin Independence Army (KIA). The fighting has displaced 100,000 people.

“The industry generates funds for both sides in a war,” the report says. “This creates incentives for military commanders and hardliners in government to prolong the conflict and protect the ill-gotten assets they stand to lose if the jade business is run more openly and fairly.”


Than Shwe

Myanmar’s jade trade is run by former junta members

Than Shwe
Following a year-long investigation, Global Witness researchers sought to bring transparency to an industry that largely remains in the shadows, suggesting that the value of jade production in the country could be as high at $31 billion (£20bn). The largest market for the green stone is China, but official Chinese data on its import from Myanmar values it as significantly less, at $12 billion.

The NGO, whose co-founder Charmian Gooch spoke at WIRED 2014, estimates that the jade trade is the equivalent of 48 per cent of Myanmar’s official GDP – and 46 times government expenditure on healthcare.

So where is the money going? The report alleges that, despite Myanmar’s significant political reforms, it’s disappearing into the pockets of individuals associated with the military junta, drug lords and crony companies under the control of individuals who use the cash for their own private and political purposes.

“We interviewed over four hundred key players in the jade industry, government officials and others pored over company records and production data,” says Global Witness researcher Mike Davis on the phone from Myanmar’s capital, Yangon. “The vast majority goes to China, most of it smuggled, and price manipulation is rife.”

Despite significant efforts from western governments — particularly the US — to encourage reform in Myanmar, significant amounts of the country’s economy are still in the hands of a corrupt elite. In a leaked US diplomatic cable in August this year Steven Law — the chairman of a company that was awarded a government contract to develop Yangon international airport — was described as a “top crony” of Myanmar’s junta. His father Lo Hsing Han was identified as Myanmar’s “godfather of heroin”.

Jade is mostly mined in Kachin state, a province in the north of the country sandwiched between India and China. Global Witness reports wholesale environmental and economic destruction in parts of the region and intimidation of indigenous people who have had their land seized. The jade trade is also fuelling armed conflict between the government and ethnic minority Kachin nationalists.

“You’re not allowed into the jade mining area,” Davis says. “Officially you can get a permit — but you won’t be granted one. We used a combination of methods from straightforward approaches like knocking on the door of government offices, sending letters, and asking questions of officials, as well as retrieval and analysis of company records in partnership with the organisations Open Corporates and Open Knowledge Foundation. We also worked closely with a range of sources who were able to give us access to information about certain aspects of the business. Ultimately we ended up with a very deep pool of data. The Myanmar government has some of this information, but it isn’t willing to share much of it with its own citizens.”

In July 2014, the Yangon government signed up to the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) an internationally recognised organisation that promotes open and accountable management of natural resources. However, Davis maintains that, while Myanmar has implemented some of these standards in the oil, mining and gas industries, jade is yet to be accountable in the same way.

“The government of Myanmar is trying to repair its reputation by joining the EITI,” Davis says. “But jade is the elephant in the room. There’s some limited transparency in oil and gas, but none in jade, yet the sums involved in the industry are staggering.”

The report is published weeks before a general election in Myanmar that will serve as a measure of how far the political system has changed. Gareth Price, a senior research fellow at Chatham House in London says that there has been a degree of reform in the country. “It’s moved forward in terms of personal freedoms — there’s a free press, people have mobile phones and a large number of political prisoners have been freed,” he says. “But the other part of the story is where political power lies and it’s very much with the same group — instead of being army officers they retire and put on suits.”



Daw Aung San Suu Kyi met with US Deputy National Security Advisor


National League for Democracy chairperson Daw Aung San Suu Kyi met with US Deputy National Security Advisor Mr. Ben Rhodes and his team at University Avenue, Yangon on (9:00) 20 October 2015.

၂၀.၁၀.၂၀၁၅ နံနက္၉နာရီတြင္ အမ်ိဳးသားဒီမိုကေရစီအဖဲြ႔ခ်ဳပ္ဥကၠ႒ ေဒၚေအာင္ဆန္းစုၾကည္သည္ US အမ်ိဳးသား လံုၿခံဳေရး အႀကံေပး လက္ေထာက္ကိုယ္စားလွယ္ Mr. Ben Rhodes ႏွင့္ သူ၏အဖြဲ႔၀င္မ်ားအား ရန္ကုန္၊ တကၠသိုလ္ရိပ္သာလမ္းေနအိမ္တြင္ လက္ခံေတြ႔ဆံုေဆြးေႏြးခဲ့သည္။

Daw Khin Khin Kyaw’s opinion on Tayawati court sue

Daw Khin Khin Kyaw’s opinion on Tayawati court sue

တရားလႊေတာ္ေရွ႕ေနေဒၚခင္ခင္ေက်ာ္အားသာယာဝတီ­ၿမိဳ႕နယ္မတရားသူႀကီးမွတရားစြဲဆိုထားမွဴ႕အေ­ပၚေဒၚခင္ခင္ေက်ာ္သေဘာထားအျမင္ ယေန႔သာယာဝတီမတရားရံုး

Wonderfull Crowds

Aung San Suu Kyi was welcomed by big Crowd

Wonderfull Crowds

NLD Chair Daw Aung San Suu Kyi was welcomed by wonderful crowd in Irrawaddy Division, Jung-pwe township, Football field on October 18.

အမ်ဳိးသားဒီမိုကေရစီအဖြဲ႔ခ်ဳပ္ဥကၠ႒ ေဒၚေအာင္ဆန္းစုၾကည္သည္ ေအာက္တိုဘာ ၁၈ ရက္ (ယေန႔) မြန္းလြဲ ၂ နာရီ ၅၀ မိနစ္ခန္႔မွ စတင္၍ ဧရာ၀တီတိုင္းေဒသႀကီး က်ဳံေပ်ာ္ၿမိဳ႕ ၿမိဳ႕နယ္အားကစားကြင္းတြင္ တခဲနက္ေစာင့္ႀကိဳေနၾကသည့္ ေဒသခံျပည္သူမ်ားစြာအား ေရြးေကာက္ပြဲေအာင္ႏိုင္ေရး ေဟာေျပာမႈမ်ား ျပဳလုပ္ခဲ့ေၾကာင္း သိရသည္။

မြန္းလြဲ ၃ နာရီ ၃၀ မိနစ္ခန္႔တြင္ ေဟာေျပာပြဲ ၿပီးဆံုးခဲ့ေၾကာင္း သိရၿပိး က်ဳံေပ်ာ္ၿမိဳ႕မွတစ္ဆင့္ ရန္ကုန္သို႔ ျပန္လည္ထြက္ခြာမည္ျဖစ္သည္။

IC Concert for Flood

ေရေဘးသင့္ျပည္သူမ်ားအတြက္ Iron Cross ရဲ႕ ေဖ်ာ္ေျဖပြဲ

IC Concert for Flood

ပုဂံအင္တာတိန္းမန္႔က စီစဥ္တဲ့ ေရေဘးသင့္ျပည္သူမ်ား ျပန္လည္ထူေထာင္ေရး ရန္ပံုေငြဂီတပြဲအျဖစ္ Iron Cross ေတးဂီတ၀ိုင္းရဲ႕ ေဖ်ာ္ေျဖပြဲကို ရန္ကုန္ၿမိဳ႕ ျပည္သူ႔ရင္ျပင္မွာ စက္တင္ဘာ ၆ရက္ (ယေန႔) ည၇နာရီမွာ စတင္ခဲ့ပါတယ္။ ညေနပိုင္းထဲက မိုးေတြ ရြာေနခဲ့ေပမယ့္ ပရိသတ္ေတြကေတာ့ အမ်ားအျပား လာေရာက္အားေပးေနတာကို ေတြ႔ရပါတယ္။ Iron Cross တီး၀ိုင္းနဲ႔အတူအဆိုေတာ္ ေလးျဖဴ၊ အငဲ၊ မ်ဳိးႀကီးနဲ႔၀ိုင္၀ိုင္းတို႔က ပါ၀င္သီဆိုေဖ်ာ္ေျဖေနၾကပါတယ္။

Aung San Suu Kyi and Obama 2012

Aung San Suu Kyi and Obama 2012

In November 2011, Obama spoke with Aung San Suu Kyi on the phone where they agreed to a visit by Secretary of State Clinton to Burma. Obama met with Burmese President Thein Sein at the Sixth East Asia Summit. Clinton made a two-day visit from December 1, 2011. Barack Obama visited Burma on November 18, 2012, becoming the first sitting U.S. President to do so. Obama also visited Aung San Suu Kyi in her home.

မဟာေအာင္ေျမမီးေလာင္မႈ မႏၱေလးျမိဳ႔၊

မဟာေအာင္ေျမမီးေလာင္မႈ မႏၱေလးျမိဳ႔၊

“မဟာေအာင္ေျမမီးေလာင္မႈေၾကာင့္ ေနအိမ္ေျခာက္လုံးပ်က္စီး”မႏၱေလးျမိဳ႔၊ မဟာေအာင္ေျမျမိဳ႔နယ္၃၆×၃၇ႏွင့္ ၇၈×၇၉လမ္းၾကားတြင္ ယေန႕(စက္တင္ဘာ၆ရက္ ) နံနက္၈နာရီ၃၀မိနစ္အခ်ိန္က လွ်ပ္စစ္၀ါယာေရွာ့မွတဆင့္မီးေလာင္ကြ်မ္းမႈ­ျဖစ္ပြားခဲ့ေသာ ဗီဒီယိုဖိုင္

Aung San Suu Kyi IBA Global Interview 2015

Aung San Suu Kyi IBA Global Interview 2015

Aung San Suu Kyi became a worldwide symbol of freedom and democracy after spending 15 years of her life under house arrest. Since her release in 2010, she has gone from dissident to politician, and has spearheaded the drive for legal and political reform in Myanmar as leader of opposition party, the National League for Democracy, and Chairperson of the Committee for the Rule of Law and Tranquillity.