Voices
First-person perspectives on the world of work
child labour

Child labour in Myanmar’s jade mines is a deadly gamble

My name is Min Min. I left school when I was in the third grade. I dreamt about being a teacher. I'm now about 13 years old.

I live with my uncle and aunt. I came here last summer. In the morning when I wake up, I go out to look for jade stones. In the evening I go out again around 10pm. Looking for the stones is very tiring. The ones I find are small.

The most valuable jade stone I’ve ever found was worth about Kyat 100,000 (about USD100).

We risk our lives for those stones. A man died last night. I saw it with my own eyes.

Min Min

Child labourer 

It depends on the size of the stones we find, but if it’s very big the mining company takes half of what we earn from us. We risk our lives for those stones. A man died last night. I saw it with my own eyes.

Map of Myanmar, showing location of Hpakant in the north of the country and the text “land of jade”.

The Hpakant area of Myanmar is known as the “land of jade”. 

A piece of polished jade stone.

A piece of polished jade stone in the palm of a hand.

I have seen others take drugs and become addicts. I don’t want to do drugs. I like football and chinlone (the national sport of Myanmar). Sometimes I play them in the afternoon.

Min Min puts his shoes on in preparation to go jade scavenging.

Min Min puts his shoes on in preparation to go jade scavenging.

My parents live elsewhere. My dad also scavenges for jade stones. My mum stays home to cook and clean. I have six siblings. My young brother is at school. I don’t want him to quit. I want him to become an educated person.   

I am saving my money. When I grow up I want to own a house and take care of my parents.

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