JADE MINE

Leahcim Du

Leahcim Du has recently begun a career in documentary photography. From Kachin State, in Northern Myanmar, he decided to return to his home state to document the desperate plight of jade miners.

His main character is thirty-year old Maung Bwar, from a middle class family who dreamt of wealth in the jade mines. Instead, like many, he has been caught in a trap of drug addiction and poverty. “Drugs, particularly heroin, is endemic here”, he says. Drugs are everywhere here. The streets littered with empty syringes. A fix costs as little as one dollar. “Initially, many take it to help them cope with the long hours and hard work of mining. Then they get hooked, and soon they are mining just to make money for their next drug fix. That is Maung Bwar’s story.”

Leahcim Du is hopeful that the new government of Aung San Suu Kyi might be able to tackle both the jade mining industry and drug addiction in Myanmar. “But the subject is very complex,” he says. “It is not just about stopping corruption and greed. It’s also related to our civil war.” For the ongoing civil war in Kachin State, in which thousands have died and more than a hundred thousand have been displaced since it flared up again in 2011, is funded on both sides by both the jade industry as well as the drug business.

Leahcim Du thinks that the fact that he was able to even take his photographs – something that would have been impossible even a year ago – is at least an indication that things might change in Myanmar. He says, “it is finally possible to show the world the injustice happening in my home state.”

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