At least 27 feared dead in Myanmar jade mine landslide

Watchdog Global Witness estimates Myanmar’s jade industry was worth some $31 billion in 2014. (AFP)
Updated 25 July 2018

At least 27 feared dead in Myanmar jade mine landslide

  • The latest disaster hit remote Set Mu sub-township early Tuesday following heavy rains in the area, burying at least 27 people
  • Watchdog Global Witness estimated that the jade industry was worth some $31 billion in 2014, a huge proportion of which did not reach state coffers

YANGON: At least 27 people are feared dead following a landslide at a jade mine in northern Myanmar, police said Wednesday, as heavy rains hampered the search for survivors.
The poorly-regulated and notoriously corrupt multibillion-dollar industry in remote Kachin state is frequently hit by fatal disasters, and the victims often come from poor ethnic communities.
The latest disaster hit remote Set Mu sub-township early Tuesday following heavy rains in the area, burying at least 27 people, mostly from the impoverished ethnic Rawang group, local police officer Aung Zin Kyaw said.
“We haven’t found any dead bodies yet. We will search again today with the Red Cross and fire brigade,” he said.
With only about 70,000 members, the mainly-Christian Rawang are one of Myanmar’s smallest ethnic groups and live predominantly in the mountainous north, with many employed in the informal mining sector.
With few regulations and little oversight in the hugely profitable sector — mostly fueled by soaring Chinese demand — conditions are often dangerous, especially during the wet months.
“Before the rainy season, the people looking for jade were destroying the land. Now it is raining and the ground is not stable and very muddy,” local resident Shwe Thein said Wednesday.
Dozens of people have been killed by landslides this year in the Hpakant region of Kachin state, where a major incident in November 2015 left more than 100 dead.
Watchdog Global Witness estimated that the jade industry was worth some $31 billion in 2014, a huge proportion of which did not reach state coffers.
Jade and other natural resources, including timber, gold and amber, help finance both sides in a decades-long conflict between ethnic Kachin rebels and the military as they battle to control the mines and the income they bring.
Since a 17-year ceasefire broke down in 2011, more than 100,000 people have been displaced due to the fighting, many multiple times.
Civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi said on coming to power in 2016 that ending the country’s myriad conflicts was her top priority but an ongoing peace process is yet to yield any significant results.


Philippine court dismisses case seeking $3.9bn of Marcos wealth

Updated 14 min 40 sec ago

Philippine court dismisses case seeking $3.9bn of Marcos wealth

  • The country’s anti-graft court decided in favor of the Marcoses for the fourth time since August
  • Judges ruled that photocopied documents could not be used as evidence, so the case would not proceed

MANILA: A Philippine court threw out a high-profile, 32-year-old forfeiture case on Monday involving the family of late dictator Ferdinand Marcos, citing insufficient evidence to order the return of $3.9 billion of allegedly ill-gotten wealth.
The country’s anti-graft court decided in favor of the Marcoses for the fourth time since August, with judges ruling that photocopied documents could not be used as evidence, so the case would not proceed.
It has been referred to widely as the “mother” of cases in a three-decade effort by a special presidential panel to recover an estimated $10 billion allegedly siphoned off by Marcos and a family that had lived lavishly during his 20 years in power, 14 of which were ruled under martial law.
The case lodged by the Presidential Commission on Good Government had sought the return of 200 billion pesos ($3.93 billion) it said was tied up in equities, numerous local and foreign banks and real estate at home and in the United States and United Kingdom.
It also included the value of 177 paintings and 42 crates of jewelry worth nearly $9 million.
In a 58-page verdict, the court “acknowledged the atrocities committed during martial law under the Marcos regime and the ‘plunder’ committed on the country’s resources.”
“However, absent sufficient evidence that may lead to the conclusion that the subject properties were indeed ill-gotten wealth, the court cannot simply order the return of the same to the national treasury.”
The same court dismissed similar cases against the family in August, September and October, all for lack of evidence.
Despite being overthrown in a 1986 revolt and driven into exile, the Marcos family remain a powerful force in the Philippines, with loyalists throughout the bureaucracy and political and business elite.
The late leader’s wife Imelda was a four-term congresswoman, daughter Imee is currently a senator, as was son and namesake Ferdinand Marcos Jr, who has been tipped as a possible candidate for the presidency in 2022. A relative is the current Philippine ambassador to the United States.
The family has a powerful ally too in President Rodrigo Duterte, who has spoken well of the former dictator, backed Imee’s senate run and expressed a desire for Marcos Jr to have been his vice president.