“I Thought I was going to Die’: Inside Myanmar’s Risky Pursuit of Jade

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“The people of KIA are everywhere, and they can feel the smell which is the sale of jade and has the good quality of the jade,” he said, referring to the rebel group. “If you do not pay, you will be shot and die anonymously.”

Mr. Aung has said that he has recently decided to work for a mining boss, because he could no longer do it on his own after the economic downturn caused by the sars coronavirus pandemic.

Myanmar has been largely unaffected by the virus, at least according to the official data, with only 304 reported cases and six deaths in a population of 54 million.

But the pandemic is, in great part closed, the global market for jade, particularly in China, and Mr. Aung said he could not survive without buyers.

The boss, who operates outside the law, as the gatherers, usually pays for food and a place to stay and keeps half of everything they found.

In spite of Mr. Aung’s narrow escape, and the scratches on the arms, legs, and face, he has no intention of quitting.

“There is no other job for me,” he said. “It is better to die than to live with nothing to eat. I know that this work is very dangerous, but who live in hunger is just as dangerous.”

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