China should support Myanmar in smuggling crackdown, ecological assistance

By Hu Weijia Source:Global Times Published: 2017/4/10 23:53:39

As a major export market for Myanmar's jade, China should ramp up efforts to crack down on smuggling as the over-exploitation of Myanmar's jade mines harms the environment.

A total of 427 mining licenses won't be renewed by Myanmar's Ministry of Natural Resources and Environmental Conservation, which is preparing an environmental management plan, reported recently. Myanmar is the only source of high-quality emerald in the world, but the unbridled exploitation could destroy forests and have an adverse effect on the environment. Landslides from improperly dumped waste soil have brought huge economic losses to the country. In the past few years, Myanmar has seen a wave of protests against mining projects.

Myanmar's jade industry was worth $31 billion in 2014, equivalent to nearly half the country's GDP, according to Britain-based Global Witness. However, the jade business may not be of much benefit to Myanmar's economy due to smuggling, money laundering and corruption. With a long boundary line with China, Myanmar sees huge quantities of jade seep illegally across its northern border into China's market every year, although measures have been taken by both countries to crack down on smuggling.

As Myanmar's government suspends operations at some mines to protect the environment, jade companies - which were usually aligned with various local armed forces - may go deeper underground to avoid government supervision, making smuggling more rampant. China may need to take coordinated action to crack down on smuggling and control its total imports of Myanmar's jade.

Additionally, China could provide direct support for Myanmar to fix the ecological environment of its mining areas. Myanmar jade has become a crucial component of the local economy in some Chinese border cities such as Tengchong, but this will not be a sustainable business in the long run if environmental deterioration is a result of jade mining.

China may need to export advanced mining technology to Myanmar in an effort to reduce the damage to the environment and provide financial assistance to improve the ecology of the mining area.

China should play a positive role in helping its neighbors deal with environmental problems instead of simply importing raw materials from them. Frequent high-level visits between the two countries offer opportunities to enhance bilateral cooperation on environmental protection and on cracking down on smuggling.

According to the Xinhua News Agency, on Monday during Myanmar President U Htin Kyaw's trip to China, the government said it is willing to work with Myanmar to maintain peace and stability in the border areas. Combating and eradicating the illicit trade in jade from Myanmar could also help decrease a source of funding for local armed forces in the country.

The author is a reporter with the Global Times.


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