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Chinese nationals allegedly caught mining sandstone without official permission in Shan State’s Muse District were apprehended by local villagers on Monday.
Residents of Pang Mong village tract in Namhkam Township, on Burma’s border with China, caught four Chinese nationals with two trucks loaded with sandstone on the bank of Nam Siri Creek on 17 October.
“We have been hearing news about unknown individuals and companies extracting sandstone in the area. On [Monday] local villagers spotted them again loading the rocks onto their trucks,” said Sai Tun Hlaing, a local resident of Namhkam.
“The villagers first took photos of the group and made a report to the Namhkam police. We also gathered a group of local people and went to the scene. When we found the trucks, one of them attempted to drive away but we caught them both.”
He said four Chinese nationals — three men and one woman — are currently in custody at Namhkam police station. They reportedly claimed that they were just private individuals doing small-time mining and not employees of any enterprise or company.
Local villagers said that pollution caused by mining operations along the banks of the Nam Siri Creek — in many cases run by Chinese companies in joint ventures with local officials — had damaged the natural ecosystem and nearby farmland. Local authorities put a stop to some of these businesses in 2014 following a complaint by local villagers to the regional parliament, but illegal operations have continued.
Sai Tun Hlaing said another group of Chinese nationals has also been spotted surveying land in the Nawngsai village tract between Muse and Namhkam. Locals authorities and Buddhist monks have warned them that no mining operations will be allowed in the area.