Myanmar: Residents oppose Letpadaung mine; police's repression leaves 1 dead, govt. jails activists


On 22 December 2014, violence once again erupted in the Letpadaung copper mine as villagers opposed to the expansion of the mine clashed with police and Chinese workers. Relevant reports are linked below.

Similarly violent clashes have occurred in the past, among them the November 2012 crackdown on peaceful protesters, where police were found to have used white phosphorous, which burned and injured dozens of protesters including monks.

In May, a court sentenced six activists opposed to the mine to four years in prison and in August they were sentenced to additional 4 months in prison under the Peaceful Assembly and Peaceful Procession Law.

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21 August 2015

Myanmar: Leptadaung activists sentenced to 4 months in prison, on top of previous 4 & half years

Author: Naw Noreen, Democratic Voice of Burma

"Additional sentences for Latpadaung activists", 20 Aug 2015

Five activists have been sentenced to four months each in prison by the Ahlone township court under Article-18 of the Peaceful Assembly and Peaceful Procession Law. The group had previously been sentenced to over four years in prison each, under various charges connected to a protest in front of the Chinese embassy in Rangoon in December last year. The group – Nay Myo Zin, Naw Ohn Hla, Tin Htut Paing, Ba Myint and Than Swe – were arrested after scuffling with police in front of the Chinese embassy, in a protest denouncing the death of Latpadaung villager Khin Win, who was fatally shot by security forces at the China-backed copper mining project in Sagaing Division’s Monywa. Following the arrest, various charges were pressed – including the Article-505(b) of the Code Penal for sedition and multiple counts of a charge under the protest law for staging rally without official permission, filed by different police stations in townships they marched past in the demonstration. In May this year, the activists were sentenced in total to four years and eight months in prison under five charges...[T]he Ahlone township court passed a verdict on the group for violation of the Article-18 in the township – four months each in prison; to be served concurrently with similar verdicts passed by courts in other townships. “We were sentenced to four months in prison. The court ruled that we were guilty of the charge, but decided the term should be served concurrently with previous sentences,” said Nay Myo Zin.


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26 May 2015

Unfair convictions of Leptadaung activists highlight lack of rule of law in Myanmar, says ICJ

Author: Vani Sathisan & Hayman Oo, International Commission of Jurists (ICJ)

"Letpadaung convictions taint the legal system", 22 May 2015

U Nay Myo Zin...was one of the six human rights activists – together with Daw Naw Ohn Hla, Daw Sein Htwe, Ko Tin Htut Paing, Daw San San Win and U Than Swe – who were subsequently sentenced to four years and four months in prison with hard labour...Their conviction, after a trial that didn’t meet basic standards of fairness and due process, highlights the tremendous pressure on the country’s judiciary at a time when Myanmar desperately needs to show improvements in the rule of law.The protesters were convicted of violating section 18 of the Peaceful Assembly and Peaceful Procession Law and sections 147, 505(b) and 353 of the penal code, for rioting, publishing or circulating information which may cause public fear or alarm and may incite persons to commit offences against the state or against the public tranquility, and assaulting or preventing a public servant from the discharge of his duty, respectively. The charges related to their peaceful demonstration outside the Chinese embassy in Yangon on December 30, 2014, calling on Myanmar authorities to carry out an urgent and impartial investigation into the death of Daw Khin Win. She was shot dead on December 22, 2014, while demonstrating against land confiscations and forced evictions at the Letpadaung copper mine...The lack of accountability for the killing of Daw Khin Win and the incident three years ago stands in contrast to the rapid convictions of the peaceful demonstrators and the harsh sentences meted out. The International Commission of Jurists has observed and documented the pre-trial and trial phases of the case, and considers that they grossly violate international standards of fair trial.

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18 May 2015

Amnesty International urges public to ask Wanbao to prevent forced evictions

Author: Amnesty International

"Urgent Action - Thousands at Risk of Forced Eviction" 4 May 2015

Thousands of people are at risk of being forcibly evicted from their homes and farms to make way for the Letpadaung copper mine in central Myanmar. On 24 March 2015 the President’s office announced that the Environmental and Social Impact Assessment for the Letpadaung mine project in Sagaing region, central Myanmar, had been approved. There is therefore a high risk that the mining company Myanmar Wanbao will resume operations to take over land for the project and forcibly evict 196 families who have refused to move and thousands of villagers whose land has not yet been taken over by the company. Myanmar Wanbao is a subsidiary of Chinese company Wanbao Mining. 

Please write immediately in English, Burmese, Chinese or your own language: 

■ Calling on the mining company Myanmar Wanbao to halt any plans to take over the remaining land for the Letpadaung mine and carry out a genuine consultation with all affected persons on the evictions, resettlement conditions and compensation; 

■ Urging the company to ensure that conditions in resettlement villages comply with international standards on adequacy of housing and that people who have been forcibly evicted from their homes and farm lands receive adequate reparation; 

■ Urging the company to comply with its commitment that it will only use the police to protect its operations when the police guarantee that they will comply with international standards and guidelines on use of force. 

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18 May 2015

ICJ condemns conviction of human rights defenders after 5 minutes long unfair trial

Author: International Commission of Jurists (ICJ)

"Myanmar: Letpadaung convictions grossly unfair", 15 May 2015

The ICJ...condemned the conviction of six human rights defenders after an unfair trial lasting less than five minutes. The six were charged in connection with their participation in a peaceful demonstration against the fatal shooting of a protestor in Letpadaung. They were sentenced to four years and four months in prison with hard labour. “Under both international and Myanmar law, a fair trial means independent judges, the need for evidence of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, and due process. All of these requirements were ignored in the case of these accused, who must be immediately and unconditionally released,” said Sam Zarifi, the ICJ’s Regional Director for Asia and the Pacific. “Instead of prosecuting peaceful protestors, the Myanmar government must hold those responsible for the killing in Letpadaung accountable and provide justice,” he added. The ICJ attended today’s hearing at the Yangon Dagon Township Court of Daw Naw Ohn Hla, Daw Sein Htwe, U Nay Myo Zin, Ko Tin Htut Paing, Daw Lay Lay, Daw San San Win and U Than Swe, who were sentenced for violating Article 18 of the Peaceful Assembly and Peaceful Procession Law, as well as a series of offences under the Penal Code....It is unclear whether an appeal will be filed, but the ICJ understands that the accused’s appeal in this case would be highly unlikely to succeed. The ICJ has observed and documented the case’s pre-trial and trial phases and considers that they grossly violate international standards of fair trial. Bail has been denied to all the accused after hearings that last less than five minutes. The accused have also complained to the ICJ about poor prison conditions, non-nutritious or edible food, dirty water and no access to radio or television. These do not comply with international standards, including the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners. The ICJ urges the Myanmar authorities to drop all charges against the accused and take effective measures to ensure that such violations do not reoccur in this or future cases. The ICJ calls upon the Myanmar authorities and the judiciary to take measures, in law and practice, to ensure that the judiciary is able to decide cases independently and impartially as a separate and co-equal branch of the government.

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18 May 2015

Myanmar court sentences 6 activists opposed to Letpadaung mine to 4 years in prison

Author: Agence France-Presse

"Myanmar jails six activists who opposed copper mine: lawyer", 15 May 2015

A Myanmar court sentenced six activists opposed to a controversial Chinese-backed copper mine to over four years in prison...The campaigners were arrested following December protests near the Chinese embassy in Yangon calling for the closure of the mine venture in the central town of Monywa, which has been dogged by complaints of land-grabbing and environmental damage. "All six activists were sentenced to four years and four months imprisonment each," lawyer Robert San Aung, who represented five of the activists [said]...He said the court found them guilty on charges including defying an order to disperse, disrupting the duty of a civil servant and protesting without permission...The Letpadaung mine -- run by Chinese firm Wanbao as part of a joint venture with a major Myanmar military conglomerate --- has raised questions about Myanmar's reliance on investment from neighbouring China, which gave crucial political support to the former junta. Protests in Yangon were sparked by the death of Khin Win, in her 50s, who was shot dead by police near the mine in December, during clashes with demonstrators trying to stop the mine company from building a fence in territory disputed with local farmers. Authorities have yet to announce any prosecutions in the killing. Police in March rejected a lawsuit by monks who suffered phosphorus burns at the hands of officers when they protested against the Letpadaung mine in 2012. Robert San Aung said the activists had little faith in the country's court system, which was chronically undermined by decades of military control.

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2 February 2015

Myanmar: Wanbao should fulfil environmental & social commitments in Letpadaung especially after recent abuses, say experts

Author: Daniel Aguirre & Irene Pietropaoli, Myanmar Times

“Blame game at Letpadaung”, 28 January 2015

One indicator of Wanbao’s commitment to responsible conduct is how it responds to Daw Khin Win’s killing and the protests over the mine’s operation…[I]t is important for Wanbao to demonstrate that it has conducted due diligence and undertaken the remedial measures outlined in its ESIA…[T]he company should make good on its commitment to create an effective community complaints mechanism...The government of Myanmar should carefully monitor the implementation of ESIAs to ensure that these are meaningful commitments and not just exercises in public relations.

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16 January 2015

Myanmar: Human Rights Commission faults police over Letpadaung copper mine shooting

Author: Nobel Zaw, Irrawaddy (Myanmar)

Burma’s National Human Rights Commission has said that the recent killing of a farmer at the Letpadaung copper mine in Sagaing Division was the result of mistakes made by the police when they tried to suppress a protest against the project…[T]he commission said police had failed to follow security procedures for quelling a protest…when officers were deployed to protect workers from China’s Wanbao Company as they seized and fenced off farmland for the expansion of the mine in Salingyi Township…

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Author: Francetv info & AFP

« Birmanie : un mort et vingt blessés lors d'une manifestation contre une mine chinoise », 23 décembre 2014

Une femme a été tuée par la police parce qu'elle s'opposait à l'exploitation d'une mine de cuivre chinoise dans le nord-ouest de la Birmanie. Les forces de l'ordre ont ouvert le feu lundi 22 décembre quand les habitants de la région ont tenté d'empêcher les employés chinois de la compagnie minière d'ériger des clôtures près de la mine Letpadaung, située dans la ville de Monywa…Les habitants s'opposent à cette mine construite sur leurs terres et dénoncent les risques environnementaux du projet…En Birmanie, les nombreux projets de mines sont source de conflits avec les populations locales, qui pointent du doigt la multitude de projets chinois accusés de ne pas profiter aux habitants….

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5 January 2015

Myanmar: 7 charged for protesting against Letpadaung mine days after a villager is killed in clash with police

Author: AFP, Myanmar Times

“Police charge seven for Letpadaung protests”, 2 January 2015

…[The seven arrested] were among 100 activists who scuffled with police…near the Chinese embassy in Yangon. The protesters demanded the closure of the Letpadaung copper mine in the Sagaing region, where a female villager was shot dead during a clash with police…The shooting has sparked a series of protests in Yangon and Mandalay as well as a running stand-off at the mine itself, which villagers say has been established for the benefit of a Chinese company at the expense of their land and the local environment…They face several charges including protesting without permission and criminal intimidation…Four of the protesters -- Naw Ohn Hla, Nay Myo Zin, Sein Htwe and Tin Htut Paing -- have been held in Yangon's notorious Insein prison…

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5 January 2015

Myanmar: Farmers reject offer of compensation for damaged crops in Letpadaung mine & pledge to continue protests until their property is returned

Author: Roseanne Gerin, Radio Free Asia

“Myanmar Farmers Reject Mining Company Payout For Ruined Crops”, 2 January 2015

Villagers affected by a controversial China-backed copper mine...said…that an offer by the project’s operator to compensate them for crops it damaged while erecting a fence on disputed land was inadequate and pledged to continue protests until the property is returned to them. China’s Myanmar Wanbao Mining Copper Ltd. and its partner, the military-backed Union of Myanmar Economic Holdings Ltd., will pay farmers the highest market rate for crops at the site in Letpadaung...said Saw Myint Oo, minister of the division’s Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock Breeding…Villagers, however, rejected the offer of compensation and demanded that Wanbao return land the company fenced off late last month, sparking clashes between residents and police that left one protester dead and dozens of people injured…

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