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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Author: Thomas Fuller & Wai Moe, New York Times
A villager protesting the expansion of a Chinese copper mine in Myanmar was shot and killed…in the latest bout of violence to mar the project…Villagers reached by telephone said the slain woman, Daw Khin Win, 56, was shot by security forces as the police and Chinese employees of the mine were erecting a fence in one of the villages where land had been seized for the expansion of the operation. More than a dozen people were wounded in clashes with security forces, witnesses said…The shooting came the same day the operators announced an expansion of the mine requiring that land in 35 nearby villages be seized…Farmers are protesting both the land seizures and the environmental damage from the enormous piles of tailings that surround the mine…
Author: Kyaw Phyo Tha, Irrawaddy (Myanmar)
Three people were injured…when police used rubber bullets to quell an attempt to halt land seizures near the Letpadaung copper mining project, the day after one woman was shot dead by police in the same village. A doctor from the 88 Generation Peace and Open Society…said he had treated 16 people who were injured in confrontations over the last two days, including several shot with rubber bullets, while others were hit and kicked by police and Chinese employees working on the project. According to Hse Tae residents, more than 17 acres of farmland in the surrounding area had been bulldozed since 6:30am on Tuesday, destroying a swath of sesame, sunflower and bean crops…[A] Hse Tae resident who witnessed the seizure [said] “when the villagers attempted to stop the bulldozer, police shot them down.” An official from Myanmar Wanbao Mining Copper Limited…told the Irrawaddy…that the company will continue to fence the area…[T]he company accused protestors of using slingshots and throwing rocks at police and Wanbao staff, while vehemently denying accounts on social media that its employees had assaulted villagers and carried knives…
[English-language summary of key points from the Chinese original video provided by Business & Human Rights Resource Centre. Wanbao Mining provided a link to this video to Business & Human Rights Resource Centre]
Regarding conflicts at the copper mine in Letpadaung, Myanmar, TV host and deputy editor Lu Ningsi of Chinese Phoenix Television says that according to information from Wanbao Mining, the company carried out the expansion project in accordance with the Burmese law, and that Aung San Suu Kyi’s investigation committee declared that the operation could go forward, given alterations are made. Wanbao Mining says it received an approval rating of 71%, with signatures, after consultations with the local community, which is above the international standard. In each village, Wanbao has also set up access to fresh water and electricity, built roads, bridges, hospitals and schools and had launched an unemployment fund. The environmental impact assessment was carried out by an Australian company and was ready to submit the final report to the Burmese government…The incident started on 22 December 2014, when villagers surrounded the police, armed with rocks, knives and bows. In self-defence the police shot and killed a woman…Later in the night some organized protests at the Chinese embassay, which attracted more than 60 journalists. On 23 Dec, the villagers adjusted their strategy and did not bring any weapons to display their vulnerable image...These shows that these were set up...Wanbao Mining issued a statment declaring strongly against violence, and says that consultation is the best way to settle disputes…
Author: Myanmar Alliance for Transparency and Accountability
[Civil society groups] from Myanmar strongly condemn current events arising in the Latpataung conflict and express concern that this hinders implementation of the EITI mechanism in Myanmar…The present situation…is one in which communities are experiencing the loss of: ancestral lands, livelihoods, social and economic welfare. Violent and forceful police responses to communities affected by land confiscations includes unjustly imprisoning community members and using violent force causing injury, bloodshed and death. The police response in Latpadaung…highlights human rights abuses due to mismanagement of natural resources by the respective authorities and foreign investors from extractive industry…[We] strongly condemn the behavior and the unnecessary use of excessive amount of force by the respective police officers and authorities from Wanpuang Company to solve the current Latpataung case…
Author: Myanmar Alliance for Transparency and Accountability
English version of statement also provided.
Author: Kyaw Kha, Irrawaddy (Myanmar)
…Salingyi Township Police Station chief Col. Aung Kyaw said family members of Khin Win, a 56-year-old woman who died during the [Letpadaung copper mine] unrest...had registered their complaint at the station…Authorities spared no efforts to secure the [mining] area for the company, as dozens of police patrolled the area and placed huge rolls of barbed wire along the perimeter of the latest land seizures. The mining complex was being further secured by high fences and the installation of watch towers, while tailings produced by the mine are being dumped to form a barrier along the edge of the area. Tensions flared up near the Letpadaung copper mine…after Wanbao company workers began clearing land with bulldozers and fencing off more than a dozen acres of farmland in Hse Tae Village as part of the planned expansion of the mine…
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…
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…