Myanmar authorities have arrested hundreds of jade traders working at emporiums that compete against a junta-backed market in Mandalay, traders said on December 21.
Taxes on the shady, multi-billion dollar jade industry are a major source of revenue for Myanmar’s military and help fund rights abuses, advocacy groups say.
On December 20, junta soldiers swooped on three markets in Mandalay – where most stones pass through – and “arrested hundreds” including several Chinese brokers, one trader said on condition of anonymity.
None of the arrests took place at Mandalay’s sprawling government-run jade market, which closed for months during the pandemic and was bombed by the anti-junta “People’s Defence Forces” shortly after it reopened in October.
A second broker who was not present during the raids said he had been told hundreds had been detained, including several Chinese. Local media reported around 300 had been arrested.
One outlet posted a clip purporting to show the raid with at least nine police vehicles pictured outside a building.
AFP digital verification reporters found no evidence the clip had appeared online before December 21. The video seemed to have been shot in Mandalay.
A junta spokesman could not be reached for comment as to why the arrests had been made.
After the bombing on the government-backed market, the junta ordered merchants to return to the venue, adding that any stalls that did not reopen would be “seized”.
But many brokers in Mandalay had kept away, the two traders said.
“Not many people are doing business there,” said one.
“People are also afraid of the People’s Defence Force warning as well.”
The raids came as Myanmar holds a pearl and jade emporium that was attended last week by junta chief Min Aung Hlaing.
The Southeast Asian country has been mired in chaos since the February putsch, with the military trying to crush widespread democracy protests and the economy in crisis.
The emporium showed the military’s “desperation to secure internationally-traded currency”, Hanna Hindstrom, senior campaigner for Myanmar at Global Witness said on December 17.