Thieves steal $400,000 worth of gold

Dec 7, 2009 (DVB), Police in central Burma are investigating a jewelry shop robbery in which thieves made off with a horde of gold bracelets and diamond rings, a source close to the shop owners said.

More than 400 million kyat ($US400,000) worth of jewelry went missing from the Shwe Myint Moh shop in Pyinmana, Mandalay division, sometime in the early hours of 2 December. The heist included around 300 gold bracelets and 36 diamond rings.

"There wasn't any trace left from the robbery," said the source. "The thieves only chose and took what they wanted. Locks at the shop's doors weren't broken either."

"The owners live upstairs of the shop building where a mini-store is also attached," he added. "There are about seven clerks working at the store."

An official on duty at Pyinama police station said that the local criminal investigation department and authorities are working to track down the culprits.

"The investigation is still in progress and we can't yet tell who did it," said the official. "As far as we know, the robbery took place around 5am [on 2 December]. There was no sign of a break-in but only that items had gone missing."

The gold shop owners were unavailable for comment.

It is the second major gold shop robbery to have occurred in Mandalay division this year. In May a shop was targeted in the middle of the afternoon by armed men who shot three people, killing one.

The Burmese government's Military Affairs Security in neighbouring Magwe division confirmed that the weapon and ammunition used in the robbery were stolen from an army stockpile on 4 April in Yesagyo township.

A Yesagyo resident had earlier voiced suspicion that the army was involved in the break-in.

In October government figures released by the Central Statistical Organisation (CSO) showed that gold prices in Burma had more than doubled since 2005.

Burmese economist Khin Maung Nyo said that the reason for the rise in the price of gold is due to people's distrust of Burmese banks.

Burma has been plagued by financial instability since the military took over the country in 1962. Many Burmese citizens stock gold due to the unreliability of investing in national banks.

Reporting by Naw Say Phaw

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