As Myanmar’s de-facto leader and Nobel Peace Prize Winner Daw Aung San Suu Kyi receives the Freedom of the City of London, Global Witness is calling for her and her international partners to directly tackle the way in which predatory natural resource extraction is fuelling Myanmar’s worsening armed conflicts.
Aung San Suu Kyi’s U.K. visit comes as Myanmar prepares for critical peace talks designed to end decades of civil wars which have driven hundreds of thousands of people from their homes in the last few years. Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy party promised to make ending these conflicts top priority when it took power a year ago, yet the situation is worsening. It is critical that attention around her visit focuses on the massive reforms that securing peace would require, specifically to the natural resources sector. Today, the worst of the fighting is in the north, which is also home to the world’s most valuable jade mines.
“Today Nobel Peace Prize Winner Aung Sang Suu Kyi receives the freedom of London – but what of the freedoms she promised her own people?” said Global Witness’ Paul Donowitz. “The civil wars she pledged to end are getting worse in the north and west, not better. Here struggles for control of the country’s vast jade sector fuels fighting and abuses by the military elites and crony companies that are meant to be a thing of the past. If she is to deliver the peace she promised Myanmar, Suu Kyi must focus on ejecting men with guns from the mines and sharing the country’s riches fairly. That needs to start at the upcoming peace talks,” Donowitz stated.
Notes to editor:
- Ahead of Myanmar’s election in 2015, the Global Witness investigation Jade: Myanmar’s “Big State Secret” revealed a string of notorious military figures and drug lords secretly controlling and profiting from the jade industry. The report also revealed the immense size of the industry, estimating official production at up to US$31 billion in 2014 alone; this is a figure equivalent to nearly half of the entire country’s GDP, yet the local population sees little benefit. Instead local communities suffer amidst rampant drug use, deadly landslides, and extortion rackets.
- On May 17th, Global Witness will publish new material showing how jade fuels the conflict in northern Kachin state. The peace talks - known as the 21st Century Pang Long process – will begin in Myanmar on 24th May.
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Myanmar’s vast jade trade is being secretly controlled by networks of military elites, drug lords and crony companies associated with the darkest days of junta rule, an explosive 12-month investigation by Global Witness reveals today.