MAC: Mines and Communities

Burmese villagers win hearing against copper mine

Published by MAC on 2012-10-23
Source: Myanmar Times, Democratic Voice of Burma

The villagers of Letpadaung, having drawn international support for their battle to prevent expansion of Burma's largest copper mine, have secured now two small advances.

The local authority has accepted their complaints that they were "insulted" and threatened by the two Monywa mining companies,  which also seized their farmlands by force.

The complaints will now be sent to court.

Two police offers who guarded the mine also claim that the companies compelled them to work as security personnel and then mis-treated them.

At a seminar, held last week in the Burmese capital Rangoon,  delegates agreed on seven recommendations to "reduc[e] conflict and improv[e] performance in the extractive industries". 

Letpadaung complaints accepted

By Naw Say Phaw Waa

Myanmar Times

15 October 2012

Officials in Salingyi township have accepted two of three complaints filed by residents from 26 villages near the Monywa copper mine in Sagaing Region who want to press charges against the mine project's backers.

The residents filed formal complaints with Salingyi township police against Myanmar Wanbao Mining Copper Limited and Union of Myanmar Economic Holdings Limited, a military-owned company involved the project, on October 8.

U Hla Ngwe, administrator for Salingyi township, told some of the complainants the following day he would accept the complaint and forward it to the court, said Ko Han Win Aung from the Political Prisoners' Families Beneficial Network.

A third complaint, filed against Salingyi township official U Zaw Moe Aung and U Myint Aung, a project officer from both UMEHL and Myanmar Wanbao Copper, for allegedly "collaborating and abusing their authority by introducing" a curfew around the mine under section 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, was rejected.

Ko Han Win Aung said the villagers filed complaints against Myanmar Wanbao Mining Copper for allegedly "insulting and treating very rudely to the villagers" and UMEHL for allegedly taking land by force and threatening to harm villages who complained about the dumping of earth on their farmland.

Ko Han Win Aung said police officers only allowed four or five people to enter the station at one time to file the complaint, so only three or four people from each village were listed as complainants.

U Myint Aung said the villagers were within their rights to file the complaint but the companies would fight the allegations.

"We didn't break any laws and we didn't incorrectly use our authority to oppress them. If they want to charge us, this is their right. If they think they are right, they can do it. We are ready to defend ourselves," he said.

Meanwhile, residents of affected villages plan to hold a public meeting near the site of a planned expansion at Letpadaung in the middle of October, Ko Han Win Aung said.

"This public assembly is to peacefully protest and to encourage the government to act on the desire of the public, who are suffering because of the Letpadaung project," he said.
Representatives of labour unions, student unions, environment conservation organisations, the judiciary and other groups will be invited, he said.

Seminar reps draft recommendations for extractive sectors

By Staff Writers

Myanmar Times

15 October 2012

Corporate social responsibility and the Ruggie Guiding Principles for Business and Human Rights were the focuses of a seminar - "Sharing on Corporate Social Responsibility" - held in Yangon last week.

The two-day seminar attracted about 50 participants and was held at the Chatrium Hotel on October 8 and 9. The event attracted a mix of government, industry and civil society participants and was hosted by Spectrum - the Sustainable Development Knowledge Network - along with the Centre for Social Responsibility for Mining, part of the University of Queensland's Sustainable Minerals Institute.

The seminar was supported by the Australian government through the 2012 AusAID Human Rights Small Grants program.

At a previous seminar on doing business in Myanmar on August 18, John Ruggie, the United Nations secretary-general's special representative on business and human rights, said future investors in the country would need to conduct "heightened" due diligence before commencing operations.

Participants at the October 8-9 event discussed many issues associated with extractives industries in Myanmar, looked at case studies from other resource-rich countries and brainstormed possible solutions applicable to the Myanmar context.

Presenters gave overviews of standards and codes relevant to extractive industries, corporate social responsibility and the guiding principles for business and human rights.

Special focus was also placed on the concept of "Free Prior and Informed Consent" for communities, as well as indigenous rights issues, labour law matters, resettlement issues and transparency.

During the closing sessions of the seminar participants jointly agreed on a set of seven recommendations aimed at reducing conflict and improving performance in the extractive industries.

The recommendations include a tripartite dialogue between government, business and the public that offers improved communication, understanding and opportunities to facilitate further national development, and community participation and consent in the decision making process, which participants agreed would help overcome many of the negative issues resulting from extractive projects.

Attention to land, livelihood, environmental, gender, cultural heritage, benefit sharing, safety, community harm and community protection issues are considered particularly important, participants said, adding that best practice corporate social responsibility - and specifically a focus on respect for all human rights - under the Ruggie Framework will greatly reduce the negative impacts.

Participants agreed to promote the recommendations to senior ministerial figures and to meet again for discussions on corporate social responsibility in the extractive industries.

Police officers taken into custody following interview

Democratic Voice of Burma

22 October 2012

Two police officers in Sagaing division's Monywa district who have been providing security at the Latpadaung copper mine were taken in for questioning by local officials after being interviewed by a citizen journalist last week.

Police captain Aung Kyi Sein and lance corporal Aung Win Htun were interrogated at Monywa's police station-2 on 17 October after being interviewed on camera by a citizen journalist. The video was later posted online and broadcasted on DVB's television's channel on 16 October.

On Saturday, the officers were taken to Sagaing division's police department. According Aung Win Htun's brother Kyaw Kyaw Lwin, the two officers are still being held there.

"The [officers] clarified with them what they said and what they didn't - I don't know the details," said Kyaw Kyaw Lwin. "Afterward, they were sent back to the division's police department and the [superior official] there told them to stay at the station for the moment while they wait for developments with the situation. They weren't locked up - [they're] just not allowed to leave the building."

During the interview, the two talked about how the local police were being coerced into providing security for the project that is being run by the military-owned Union of Myanmar Economic Holdings (UMEH), China's Wanbao Mining Limited and Yang Tze Copper Limited, according to a Monywa-based lawyer who met them.

The officers also talked about the poor living conditions at the project site and said they preferred normal police duties instead of working as a security guard against their will, which pays 2,000 Kyat (US$ 2.34) a day.

"In the interview, they mentioned some bad things about the [UMEH] - how they were posted as security at the mine for about four months with little food and caught scabies," said the lawyer who spoke with the officers in custody. "The division's police said it was harmful to the reputation of the force and the two are now being questioned by the police commander himself."

Residents in Monywa district's Salingyi township have been protesting for months against the massive copper mine in the area.

The project has led to the confiscation of about 7,800 acres of farmland in total and forced farmers from 66 villages in the area to relocate.

The protests have made international headlines and highlighted the rise in land grabs in the country. Legal experts say Burma's shaky legal infrastructure allows forced relocation and appropriations to continue.

However, local farmers are feeling increasingly [dis?]-empowered in the absence of military rule to stand up against development projects that threaten to forcibly remove them off the land they work.

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