HPAKANT, Myanmar/YANGON (Reuters) – When Brang Aung left home in early April, his wife pleaded for him to stay for their newborn son’s naming ceremony, just a few weeks later.
Instead, the youthful 43-year-old returned to his job a three-hour journey away as a backhoe operator for a jade mining company, keen to earn money to support a growing family, four relatives told Reuters.
Brang - Aung - Hpakant - Myanmar - Mining
Brang Aung had worked in Hpakant, northern Myanmar’s notoriously dangerous mining district, for eight years, but still told his family – Christians from the Kachin ethnic minority – to pray for his safety.
During a night shift on April 22, disaster struck. A muddy lake above his employer’s mining site breached its banks, unleashing a wave of water and dirt that buried 55 men instantly. None survived.
Tragedy - Reminder - Dangers - Workers - Brang
The tragedy was a reminder of the dangers workers such as Brang Aung face daily unearthing the valuable gemstone that is prized in neighboring China.
“The companies are earning a lot, but they don’t value the lives of the people at all,” said Brang Aung’s mother, Hkawn Bu. “It’s not just one or two people who have died, it’s hundreds. The government should protect its own citizens.”
Family - Ceremony - Boy - Htoi - San
The family never held a naming ceremony, but call the boy Htoi San Aung, the name Brang Aung had chosen for his son.
Jobs in the hills of Hpakant can pay well by the standards of rural Myanmar – Brang Aung earned around $290 a month. But the area has a reputation for lawlessness, with high rates of drug addiction and HIV, and the jade mines themselves are frequently hit by deadly accidents.
Government - Nobel - Laureate - Aung - San
The government of Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi pledged to clean up the industry when it took power in 2016, but activists say little has changed.
Reliable statistics on safety in Hpakant were not available, but media...
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