Latest Hpakant blasts linked to extortion demands

Latest Hpakant blasts linked to extortion demands

An attack on a jade-mining company in Kachin State’s Hpakant Township on Sunday destroyed at least 10 vehicles and other mining equipment, in what appeared to be an act of punishment for the operator’s refusal to give in to extortion demands from an armed group, locals said.

Shwe Thein, the chairman of the National League for Democracy party in Hpakant’s Seikmu village-tract, said unknown assailants arrived at the warehouses of the Kyal Lin company in Yumar village on five motorbikes on the evening of 15 May and threw explosives into the compound, destroying trucks, oil tankers and backhoes.

He said there were no reports of casualties and added that it was believed the attack was carried out by an armed group targeting the company for refusing to pay a “tax” to operate in the area.

The incident comes a week after a series of blasts rocked Hpakant, including one that injured a woman’s leg.

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Similar attacks were also reported in January of last year, when at least half a dozen people were injured, including four people at a police station that was the target of a grenade attack.

Late last week, there was also a deadly landslide that killed at least 13 people in Hpakant, an area infamous for its largely unregulated mining industry and general lawlessness.

Besides violence connected with the presence of armed groups and accidental deaths caused by the collapse of massive slag heaps that tower over the homes of impoverished jade scavengers, the area also has an extremely high rate of heroin addiction.

Reporting by DVB

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