In the AFR Friday I read an amazing story that seems so fantastic that it strains credibility. A province in northern Myanmar (Burma) mines jade primarily for the Chinese market. Up to 500,000 workers in these mines are kept addicted to Golden Triangle heroin by mine bosses who subject them to slave-like working conditions. An estimated 90% of the workers are HIV positive and individual syringes provided by the bosses are used for up to 800 injections each. (If syringes are shared on this scale it is surprising there would not be close to 100% infection rates. Can the Jade industry employ people on this scale?).
When I worked in Thailand in the 1980s I met many students from what is now Myanmar. They all shared one common characteristic – none wanted to return to their homeland. Most were seeking US Green Cards. Despite recent moves towards liberalisation this ‘Jade Scorpion’ story suggests not much has changed.