Burmese mining protests escalate - and so do land grabsPublished by MAC on 2012-11-05
Source: Mizzima News, Myanmar Times (2012-11-01)
Another group of Burmese villagers has demonstrated against a mining project, following actions recently taken by farmers in face of the expansion of the Letpadaung copper mine. See: Burmese villagers win hearing against copper mine
This time, small scale gold miners in the Mandalay Region lobbied the office of Myanmar National Prosperity, claiming the company had reneged on an agreement to grant them 50% access to any gold found in their area.
According to one of the villagers, Burma's Farmland Commission had ordered the company to pay compensation, but it failed to do so.
Rights abuses continue despite new law
Thailand-based Network for Human Rights Documentation-Burma has challenged perceptions that Burma's government is now seriously tackling land-grab and related issues.
It says that, between April and September 2012, it documented 114 cases of human rights violations at the hands of the government and its supporters, which included 27 cases of forced labor, 26 cases of land confiscation and 21 cases of torture.
"The 2012 Farmland Law presented an opportunity to address land seizures, but...[f]ar from reducing the prospects of land-grabbing, [it]opens the door to confiscation of agricultural land on any pretext associated with a state project or the 'national interest.'"
Yamethin miners protest in Yangon
Naw Say Phaw Waa
1 November 2012
About 35 people from the restive Moehti Moemi gold mining region of Yamethin township protested in front of the Myanmar National Prosperity Public Company office in Yangon last week, one of the protesters said.
The group demonstrated outside the University Avenue office from 9am to midday on October 29, said Ko Youte Kyi, over the company's conduct since taking over a lease in the mining area.
"We demanded compensation and to work freely like we were able to before. However, nobody from the company came out to meet us or say anything about it. After we protested, we went back to Yamethin at 5pm the same evening," Ko Youte Kyi said.
He said the protest was held in Yangon because the group had twice been refused permission to hold it in Yamethin, in southern Mandalay Region.
They received permission from Kamaryut Township Police Station on October 29, said Daw Myint Myint Khine, who also took part in the protest.
She said organisers estimated about 1000 workers from Moehti Moemi would come to Yangon for the protest but because of financial difficulties only a few could make it.
"The reason we came here is because the company has not negotiated in good faith. They negotiated with Mandalay Region Minister [for Forestry and Mining] U Than Soe Myint on August 20 over this issue. Then the Farmland Investigation Commission came in October and negotiated with the company again. The organisation instructed the company to give compensation. However, the company was stubborn and didn't do anything," said Daw Myint Myint Khine.
But company spokesperson Daw Na Di Lwin told The Myanmar Times that the protesters who came to Yangon just didn't want to work and are "obstreperous".
"That's why we don't plan to do anything" to meet their demands, she said.
Daw Myint Myint Khine said the Moehti Moemi workers have applied to Kamaryut Township Police Station to protest again, from November 3 to 7, in front of the company's office.
Myanmar National Prosperity won a tender to mine gold in the area in late 2011. But in June, workers from the hundreds of small mines at Moehti Moemi began protesting after the company allegedly reneged on an earlier verbal agreement to split all gold found in the area 50-50, The Irrawaddy reported on June 8.
The Chiang Mai-based news organisation reported Myanmar National Prosperity had made the promise to the small mining companies and individual miners in December 2011, saying they could excavate gold from the area for the duration of its five-year contract with the government.
When the protesting workers failed to reach an agreement with the company, they started marching on Nay Pyi Taw. The company then relented and agreed to allow small operators to continue mining at Moehti Moemi for another year, Democratic Voice of Burma reported on June 15.
However, the simmering unrest has continued since, with a number of miners charged with committing an obscene act and criminal intimidation in September.
Abuses, land grabs ongoing in Burma, says NGO
1 November 2012
While the political landscape in Burma has undergone noticeable shifts in recent months, human rights violations persist throughout the country, said a Chiang Mai-based rights group in a report on Thursday.
The Network for Human Rights Documentation- Burma (ND- Burma) said in its half-yearly report that issues relating to the civil war in ethnic areas, most notably forced labor, the use of child soldiers, torture and ill-treatment "remain grave concerns."
Over the period of April-September 2012, ND-Burma said it had documented 114 cases of human rights violations at the hands of the USDP-led government and its supporters, which it said included 27 cases of forced labor, 26 cases of land confiscation and 21 cases of torture.
The report also highlighted the issue of land confiscation and forced relocation by the Burmese government.
"Recent events, including the arrests and beatings of farmers protesting the forced relocation of landowners from 66 villages for the Latpadaung copper mine, underline the ongoing human rights violations by the Burmese government," said ND- Burma.
Quoting the Asian Human Rights Commission, the group said that land grabbing is a direct result of "the convergence of the military, government agents and business."
It said that the Asian Legal Resource Centre has also noted the trend when it stated: "Almost daily, news media carry reports of people being forced out of their houses or losing agricultural land to state-backed projects, sometimes being offered paltry compensation, sometimes nothing."
The 2012 Farmland Law presented an opportunity to address land seizures, ND- Burma said, however, according to the ALRC: "Far from reducing the prospects of land-grabbing, the Farmland Law opens the door to confiscation of agricultural land on any pretext associated with a state project or the ‘national interest.'"
ND- Burma noted that the formation of a Land Investigation Committee by the Burmese government has done little to alleviate concerns.
Ko Phoe Phyu, a lawyer and leading advocate against land-grabbing in Burma, reportedly expressed doubt in an interview with ND-Burma. "In the case of the Parliament's [Land Investigation] committee, it can't even decide whether or not the Union Government's actions are in conformity with the law. I think they are trying to find another solution that doesn't reflect the reality."
ND- Burma is an umbrella group of Burma-related NGOs, youth groups and women's groups based in Thailand. Its members include EarthRights International and the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners- Burma, as well as Kachin, Chin, Palaung and Arakan NGOs.