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Foragers in the jade mining town of Hpakant on Thursday staged a protest demanding amendments to the revised Myanmar Gemstones Law.
The protestors issued a list of six points, including a demand to permit day-labourers to forage freely through mounds of soil dumped by mining companies. They also called for a suspension in operations by medium to large mining enterprises in the area, but to allow small-scale mining operations to continue; and they urged authorities to permit small-time miners and foragers to be able to freely carry and trade in jade stones.
“Our demands include equal rights for small-scale miners and to allow foragers the freedom to search for stones in dump sites,” said Saw Maung Than, a participant at the rally in the central Kachin State town.
Articles 41 and 42 of the revised Myanmar Gemstones Law provide punitive measures, including one- to seven-year jail terms, for anyone convicted of illegal possession, appraisal, trade or transportation in the precious stones.
“At this moment, we are unable to take any action as the [latest amendment] to the law has not yet been approved. We are currently listening to public opinion,” said Hla Aung.
210-ton slab of jade unearthed in Hpakant, 14 October 2016; DVB