MAC: Mines and Communities

Burmese forces viciously assault mining protestors

Published by MAC on 2012-12-04
Source: Statement, Al Jazeera, The Irrawaddy, AP, DMOB (2012-11-29)

Aung San Suu Kyi "refuses to condemn" regime

Last week, tear gas, water cannons and fire bombs were rained on protestors, encamped against expansion of Burma's Monywa-Letpadaung copper mine.

According to The Irrawaddy this was "the most violent government response to civil disobedience since tentative democratic reforms were introduced last year."

A few hours after the attacks, Aung San Suu Kyi met the demonstrators, but failed to unequivocally back their demands. 

Earlier the Nobel Peace Prize Winner was quoted as telling reporters: "If Burma wants to stand up as a commensurate country within the international community, it must keep its promises".

However, the promises to which she referred were ones made by the former regime to the military-backed Chinese mining company - not to local communities. See: Burmese villagers win hearing against copper mine

Just a day before the crackdown, the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) predicted  that events were "shaping up for a major confrontation because they put paid to the idea that Burma's democratization process is primarily about the rights of its citizens".

On the contrary, said AHRC: "[T]he army, former army officers and army-connected business people, all of whom are involved in the current project, have their sights set on vast expansion of foreign investment and growth of business opportunities with as little accountability as possible.

"The farmers of Letpadaung and their allies are posing a challenge simply by virtue of the fact that their standpoint on democratization is that it is actually about democracy--the rights of citizens to stand up... and resist unlawful and unjust attempts to take from them what they believe is rightfully theirs. For these reasons, they strongly deserve our support".

A second police assault 

Meanwhile, in central Burma, a small concession has been made to small-scale miners who marched in protest at the betrayal of an earlier agreement reached with the MNPPC mining company. See: Burmese mining protests escalate - and so do land grabs

Nonetheless, four protestors were viciously attacked by police, and now face charges of "threatening the stability of the state and marching without permission".

Suu Kyi Urges Calm after Brutal Protest Raid

By Kyaw Phyo Tha

The Irrawaddy

29 November 2012

RANGOON-Opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi refused to condemn Burmese security forces for Thursday morning's brutal crackdown on a peaceful anti-copper mine protest and told a crowd of thousands that she will strive to resolve the situation.

"I want to get this issue resolved peacefully," said the Nobel laureate. "For that I shall try my best even though I cannot guarantee anything. Such a peaceful solution would not harm the people and would also boost the integrity of the country."

The pre-dawn raid on demonstrators near Monywa in central Burma has generated a deluge of criticism for Burma's quasi-civilian government, and many have since questioned whether President's Thein Sein's reformist policies are just a sham and the country is backsliding into dictatorship.

Suu Kyi addressed the crowd in Monywa on Thursday evening after meeting with representatives of both China's Wan Bao Company and the Burmese military's Union of Myanmar Economic Holdings Ltd. The project is run by both as a joint venture.

The National League for Democracy chairwoman was already due to pay a visit to Sagaing Division to talk to protesters at their camp on Thursday afternoon. She said that she intended to talk to local people about their concerns.

Despite Suu Kyi's reluctance to apportion blame for the crackdown, numerous political activists, politicians and public figures have all been quick to denounce the Burmese government for its zero tolerance approach.

Tun Myint Aung, rural affairs representative from the 88 Generation Students Group, said the raid achieved nothing but foster a growing mistrust between the government and people that could badly affect future stability.

"It's an act of violence," he said. The government's response really surprises me. They said they are on the way to democracy, and now they are heavy-handedly cracking down on peaceful demonstrators. What are they thinking?"

Aung Moe Zaw, the chairman of the Democratic Party for a New Society exiled political party, condemned the crackdown and asked for those involved to be prosecuted.

"I'm strongly against their action for the raid could erase international credibility for Burma's Union government," he told The Irrawaddy. "So I request for legal action on those behind the crackdown. If they keep doing things like that the government will lose credibility internationally as well as locally."

A few hours after the raid, images of monks with severe burns spread throughout social media such as Facebook, sparking public anger in a country where 80 percent of population is Buddhist.

"They have to pay for what they have done," said Kyaw Thu, the chairman of the Rangoon-based Free Funeral Service Society, adding that such a brutal assault should not happen a day after the Tazaungmone full moon, one of the holiest occasions in the Burmese calendar.

"If the government has sympathy for its people, this would not happen," he added.

Par Par Lay, one of Burma's famous Moustache Brothers comedy trio, told The Irrawaddy from Mandalay that "it shows that we still haven't enjoyed fully-blossomed democracy."

"I'm not sure if they are turning back to dictatorship," said the entertainer, whose troupe still has not been allowed to perform its political satire in public despite recent democratic reforms.

Indhaka, one of the leading monks of the 2007 Saffron Revolution, said he felt the crackdown was aimed at the Buddhist clergy as most of the victims wore robes.

"If the government enters into negotiations [on this issue], Thein Sein will surely gain a good name for himself again, but he won't," said the monk. "They are like devils with angels' faces. Now we know who they really are."

Indhaka added that people in Letpadaung were only staging a peaceful protest to guarantee the safety of their land. "Now let me ask if we were to go to China and make deals that had a negative impact on their environment, would they be happy with us?"


Copper Mine Protesters Burned Out in Police Raid

By Kyaw Phyo Tha

The Irrawaddy

29 November 2012

RANGOON-Protesters demanding a complete shutdown of a Chinese-backed copper mining project near Monywa in Upper Burma were forcefully dispersed by police using tear gas and water cannons early on Thursday morning in a raid which led to dozens of people being badly burned.

In the most violent government response to civil disobedience since tentative democratic reforms were introduced last year, riot police descended on six protest camps at around 2:30 am with a raft of aggressive measures that reportedly left large areas ablaze.

"They gave us five minutes to leave our camp. When the time up, water cannons came in and then tear gas and fire bombs," said Zaw Phone Myint, 36, who was at the camp by the main gate of Wanbao Company when the raid began.

He said six monks were arrested with another six protesters seriously injured at his camp with severe burns to their faces, arms and thighs due to incendiary devices.

"At 2:30 am, the main gate of Wanbao suddenly swung open and police charged in. Ten monks at our camp stood up to protect the rest of the protesters but the monks were knocked down by water jets. Then the fire bombs came in. They set our motorcycles on fire. We had to run for our lives," said Aye Net, one of the protest leaders.

"Monks dragged me away. Otherwise, I would have been killed or arrested," she added.

"We have 10 injured protesters, including monks," said Thaw Zin, an anti-copper mine activist at another camp, adding that 15 people from his area are still missing and were likely arrested.

The total number of injured and arrested at the protest area, in Sagaing Division, still cannot be confirmed. The raid comes on the same day as Burmese democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi was scheduled to visit the area to learn more about protesters' complaints.

On Tuesday evening, the local authorities ordered the protesters to leave their camps by midnight or face legal action as their gathering was against the law. But the demonstrators ignored the ultimatum.

"When the raid started, we didn't believe that [the police] would use that kind of violence as we are no longer under military dictatorship. We were shocked," said Thaw Zin. "We weren't disturbing law and order. We were unarmed people who were just asking for our rights."

The raid has been condemned by various opposition and civil society groups who fear such actions a show of force could undermine recent reforms that have earned praise from the international community.

"It's very unwise of them. I seriously condemn it. This event shows whether they are for democratic transition or not, and who they are and what their mentality is. They all are the same-generals in suits. Now this crackdown may ignite public anger and fan further unrest," said Win Tin, a leading member of the main opposition National League for Democracy party.

"Twenty-two monks have been hospitalized in Monywa Hospital. Six are in a serious condition. All are suffering skin burns. A 64-year-old monk has been referred to Mandalay hospital for his severe burns. There's a heavy security presence around Monywa Hospital, accelerating fear among the injured that they will be arrested if they go there for treatment," said Myo Thant, an 88 Generation Students group member, who is now assisting the injured in Monywa.

The mining project, a joint-venture between the military-owned Union of Myanmar Economic Holdings Ltd and China's Wan Bao Company, has come under fire since August after more than 300 residents from 12 villages in the Letpadaung mountain range staged protests to demand its closure, citing environmental destruction, forced relocations and illegal land confiscation.

More than 7,800 acres of land from 26 villages under the shadow of the mountain range have been seized to make way for the project that began last year. Since mid-November, protesters have been disrupting workers by linking arms to block the path of trucks at the construction site, and erecting camps nearby.

"I feel very sad. I never thought they would respond to us like that. We are the Burmese and [the police] are Burmese too," added Aye Net. "But on witnessing that they are protecting Chinese interests by using force on their fellow Burmese, it has caused me a great deal of heartache."


Riot police break up Myanmar copper protest

Security forces used a water cannon and other weapons to end the three-month protest, injuring 10 monks, two critically.

Al Jazeera

29 November 2012

Riot police fired water cannons and tear gas to break up a three-month protest against a vast copper mining project run by Myanmar's powerful military and its partner, a subsidiary of a Chinese arms manufacturer.

"They shot some sort of canisters that caused a fire at the camp. We just don't know what sort of weapon it was," Shin Oattama, a Buddhist monk who had helped the villagers, told Reuters by telephone. "We are now seekeing refuge at a nearby village. There's no ambulance, no doctor to take care of the injured."

Oattama said that security forces began to use water cannon and other weapons at about 3:00am [2030 GMT], wounding 10 monks, two of them critically.

Witnesses said truckloads of police arrived at camps near the mine in the Sagaing region in Myanmar's northwest, where thousands have demonstrated against a $1bn expansion of the project, which they say has caused the unlawful confiscation of more than 7,800 acres (3,160 hectares) of land.

Myo Thant, a member of the 88 Generation Students Group who has been monitoring the situation in Monywa, said: "Police used tear gas canisters. Gun shots were not heard... nobody knows for sure how the fire started."

Right to protest?

After decades of oppression, the Monywa mine has become a test of Myanmar's commitment to reform as protesters probe new-found freedoms, including a relaxation of laws on protests that took effect in July.\

"This is an example of the skin-deep nature of Burma's reforms," said Mark Farmaner of the London-based advocacy group Burma Campaign UK. "The new right-to-protest law was hailed as a major reform but it is clear there is still no right to protest in Burma."

Authorities warned the protesters late on Tuesday to clear the site by midnight that day so that a parliamentary commission could carry out an investigation.

State television said all project work had been halted since November 18 because of the protests.

The mine, Myanmar's biggest, is run by a unit of China North Industries Corp, a leading Chinese weapons manufacturer, under a deal signed in June 2010 after Canada's Ivanhoe Mines Ltd pulled out in 2007. It is backed by the military-owned Union of Myanmar Economic Holdings Ltd (UMEHL).

UMEHL operated with impunity under the military regime that ruled Myanmar for almost half a century until 2011.

The mine protest also illustrates growing resentment towards Chinese companies that have expanded in recent years across the country.

The Global Times, an influential tabloid published by China's Communist Party mouthpiece, the People's Daily, said in an editorial published on Thursday it would be a "lose-lose situation for China and Myanmar if the project is halted".

"Only third parties, including some Western forces, will be glad to see this result," it said, blaming "some Westerners" and non-government organisations for instigating the protests.

"We must not give up on the project. Even if it is eventually stopped, Chinese companies should receive compensation according to the contract and international practice," it said.

Protest reforms

Protests were suppressed quickly under a military junta in place until last year, but have become more common as president Thein Sein opens up the country, also known as Burma, and pushes through reforms.

Land disputes are a growing problem in Myanmar. Protests stretching back at least three months have involved thousands of locals and supporters. They told Reuters in September that four of 26 villages at the project site had already been displaced, along with monasteries and schools.

Aung San Suu Kyi, a Nobel Peace laureate and a member of parliament, was going ahead with a scheduled visit to the site on Thursday, her National League for Democracy (NLD) party said.

She intended to speak to the protesters about their grievances.

NLD official Ohn Kyaing told Reuters by telephone she had flown to the central city of Mandalay and was going on to Monywa by road.


Copper Mine Protesters Defiant despite Threats

By Kyaw Phyo Tha

The Irrawaddy

28 November 2012

RANGOON-Anti-copper mine demonstrators near Monywa, Sagaing Division, have refused to leave their protest camps until the controversial Chinese-backed project is shut down permanently despite government threats of legal action.

The authorities announced on Tuesday evening that those who have been inhabiting six camps in the vicinity of the Letpadaung mountain range copper mine since Nov. 17 must abandon the site by midnight or face legal action.

The order came a few days after a decision by Parliament to form a committee to investigate the situation.

More than 1,000 protesters from 26 surrounding villages including Buddhist monks and students have gathered by the project area, according to an anti-copper mine activist at a camp opened at Leldi Sayadaw Pagoda, built in remembrance of one of Burma's most venerable monks.

"Since last night, the government has deployed two police trucks. There are around 100 police with riot gear but no action from them so far," said Thaw Zin, an activist at the camp, speaking to The Irrawaddy by phone on Wednesday morning.

"There are 50 demonstrators at our camp, most of them women," he added.

Win Win Htay, a native of nearby Sae Dae Village, has been at the camp for nine days. She learned of the government's threat of legal action late on Tuesday but still wants the cancelation of the project.

"Why should we be scared? We are here to face anything that could happen. We demand the shutdown of the project," said the 29-year-old. "If we give up, we will lose the land that is our lifeline, and the next generation will suffer the consequences of the environmental impact."

Another protester at the camp, Myint Htwe, 49, said he felt very sad upon hearing the government's ultimatum. "It's like our parents forcing us to leave home without any reason," said the farmer, adding that the authorities should being negotiating with villagers.

Myint Htwe used to hope that the government would sympathize with the people and be concerned about the ecological devastation the project is bringing. "But now they are not with us," he said. "Their actions are like forcing us to hand our land to foreigners. So we are prepared for the worst."

The project, a joint-venture between the military-owned Union of Myanmar Economic Holdings Ltd and China's Wan Bao Company, has come under fire since August after more than 300 residents from 12 villages in the Letpadaung mountain range staged protests to demand its closure, citing environmental destruction, forced relocations and illegal land confiscation.

More than 7,800 acres of land from 26 villages under the shadow of the mountain range have been seized to make way for the project that began last year. Since mid-November, protesters have been disrupting workers by linking arms to block the path of trucks at the construction site, and erecting camps nearby.

Meanwhile in Rangoon, a protest against the copper mine project took place on Monday, with some demonstrators reportedly arrested by police.

Opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi is scheduled to visit the area on Thursday to learn more about the issues involved. "We have a lot of expectation of her," added Thaw Zin. "For us, she's a leader of the people. We really welcome her as we hope she can do something for us."

The Asian Human Rights Commission released a statement on Wednesday calling for an end to threats against the protesters.

"The farmers of Letpadaung and their allies are posing a challenge simply by virtue of the fact that their standpoint on democratization is that it is actually about democracy-the rights of citizens to stand up, have their voices heard, and resist unlawful and unjust attempts to take from them what they believe is rightfully theirs," said the Hong Kong-based group. "For these reasons, they strongly deserve our support."


Protesters Defy Orders End to Mine Rally

By Yadana Htun

AP 

28 November 2012

MONYWA-Hundreds of Buddhist monks and villagers occupying a copper mine in northwestern Burma defied a government order to leave by Wednesday, saying they will stay until the project is halted.

The protesters, who have set up six camps at the site, say the Letpadaung mine near the town of Monywa is causing environmental, social and health problems. The protest is the latest example of increased activism by citizens since an elected government took over last year following almost five decades of repressive military rule.

State television broadcast an announcement Tuesday night that ordered protesters to cease their occupation of the mine by midnight or face legal action. The mine is a joint venture between a Chinese firm and a company controlled by Burma's military.

"We strongly condemn last night's order from the Home Ministry," said Thwe Thwe Win, one of the protest leaders. "We will not stop our protest until our demands are met."

Asked if they were concerned about being arrested, he said: "We will face difficulties, but we will continue our protest."

Protesters say they want the mining project "to be totally halted" and have asked that any concessions be made publicly in front of the media.

There was no immediate reaction from authorities.

Political and economic liberalization under President Thein Sein has won praise from Western governments, which have eased sanctions imposed on the previous military government because of its poor record on human and civil rights.

However, this protest, which began in August, poses a direct challenge to the army because of its financial interest in the mine.

Opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi is to visit the area on Thursday to hear the protesters' grievances, adding to the pressure on Thein Sein's army-backed government. Her visit is also bound to draw attention to the rally, which partly due to its remote location has been largely ignored.

The announcement ordering an end to the occupation said operations at the copper mine had been halted since Nov. 18, after protesters occupied the area.

After the announcement was issued, some villagers left the mining site, according to Win Kyawt Hmu, a protester contacted by phone.

He said there had been nearly 1,000 protesters at the six occupation camps, including at least 300 Buddhist monks. Buddhist monks in Burma have traditionally been closely involved in social protests. It wasn't immediately possible to confirm those figures.

He said the monks and about 50 villagers remained at the main camp, near the offices of the Chinese partner in the mine, Wan Bao Co. Ltd.

The order to end the protest said parliament had decided to form a committee to investigate the situation at the mine, but could not start its work until it resumes operation.


Burma: Absurd and offensive pretext to remove demonstrators opposed to mining project

A Statement from the Asian Human Rights Commission - AHRC-STM-246-2012

28 November 2012

In the latest turn of events in the struggle against the Letpadaung copper mining project in upper Burma, about which the Asian Human Rights Commission has been campaigning since mid-2012, the government has issued an announcement ordering that demonstrators abandon their protest sites or face criminal action.

In an attempt to make its order look less like those of old and more like one responsive to parliamentary processes, the government has dressed the order up with the pretext that a special state-level commission will visit the area to investigate whether or not the project should go ahead but that, "The commission will not be able to look into the project as usual if the project activities are suspended. The commission will be able to independently investigate and correctly assess the project only when it is running as usual" (Press Release No. 7/2012). So that the project run "as usual", the logic goes, the protestors must first all leave.

This pretext for ordering thousands of demonstrators out of their strike camps is absurd.

It is rather like saying that an offence--in this case, the partial or complete forcible eviction of some 26 villages from houses and farmland, and pollution and degradation of that land by unregulated heavy industries--can be investigated only when the offence is being committed. The same principle applied to crimes would require the police to appear on the scene in the middle of a murder, assault or robbery or declare that as they were not present when the event occurred they are unable to investigate what has happened.

The pretext is also offensive, because while pretending to be responsive to protestors' legitimate demands for an inquiry into the Letpadaung Mountains project, it is in effect stating that until the demonstrators and their demands go away, the government will not consider whether or not their grievances have any legitimacy.

Like the hospital ward that works perfectly as long as it has no patients, the commission of inquiry can work perfectly as long as it has no complainants. The whole thing is preposterous, and hardly gives any cause for encouragement as to the likely outcome of such an inquiry.

Not only do the farmers and their supporters have legitimate rights to stay put and have their grievances heard by whoever turns up, but as the AHRC has previously pointed out, the orders declaring that the areas they occupy are off-limits themselves have no basis (AHRC-STM-222-20112).

The manner in which the orders were issued may be consistent with those of military dictatorship, but they are not consistent with the contents of the law to which they claim to refer. If the current government of Burma wants to pretend that it has any more political and legal legitimacy than its predecessor, then it is going to have to do better than throw the same old rubbish at its opponents and claim that it is "legal".

In this regard, the Asian Human Rights Commission is informed that already three leaders of the demonstrators, Han Win Aung, Ye Lin Kyaw and Naw Ohn Hla have been arrested and will be charged under section 18 of the 2011 Peaceful Procession and Marching Law with having organised people to demonstrate without first obtaining a permit under the law.

The AHRC has studied the law carefully and rejects its provisions as anti-fundamental human rights and anti-democratic, and consequently, as a matter of principle it rejects these arrests and calls for the immediate release of all three accused persons.

Events at the Letpadaung Mountains are shaping up for a major confrontation because they put paid to the idea that Burma's democratization process is primarily about the rights of its citizens, when in fact the army, former army officers and army-connected businesspeople, all of whom are involved in the current project, have their sights set on vast expansion of foreign investment and growth of business opportunities with as little accountability as possible.

The farmers of Letpadaung and their allies are posing a challenge simply by virtue of the fact that their standpoint on democratization is that it is actually about democracy--the rights of citizens to stand up, have their voices heard, and resist unlawful and unjust attempts to take from them what they believe is rightfully theirs. For these reasons, they strongly deserve our support.

# # #

About AHRC: The Asian Human Rights Commission is a regional non-governmental organisation that monitors human rights in Asia, documents violations and advocates for justice and institutional reform to ensure the protection and promotion of these rights. The Hong Kong-based group was founded in 1984.


Myanmar government orders end to mine occupation

Associated Press

27 November 2012

Myanmar's government ordered protesters Tuesday night to cease their occupation of a copper mine by midnight or face legal action.

State television broadcast an announcement of the order for villagers and other protesters to abandon six camps they had set up at the Letpadaung mine near Monywa in northwestern Myanmar.

The protesters claim the mine is causing environmental, social and health problems. The project is a joint venture between a Chinese firm and a company controlled by Myanmar's military.

The protest is the latest example of increased activism by citizens since an elected government took over last year following almost five decades of repressive military rule. Political and economic liberalization under President Thein Sein has won praise from Western governments, which have eased sanctions imposed on the previous military government because of its poor record on human and civil rights.

However, this protest, which began in August, poses a direct challenge to the army because of its financial interest in the mine. Opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi is to visit the area on Thursday to hear the protesters' grievances, adding to the pressure on Thein Sein's army-backed government.

The announcement ordering an end to the occupation said operations at the copper mine had been halted since Nov. 18, after protesters occupied the area.

Win Kyawt Hmu, a protester contacted by phone, said some villagers had begun to leave the mining site after authorities read out the order to vacate the area. He said there had been nearly 1,000 protesters at the six occupation camps, including at least 300 Buddhist monks. Buddhist monks in Myanmar have traditionally been closely involved in social protests. It wasn't immediately possible to confirm those figures.

He said the monks and about 50 villagers remained at the main camp, near the offices of the Chinese partner in the mine, Wan Bao Co. Ltd.

The announcement said parliament had decided to form a committee to investigate the situation at the mine, but could not start its work until it resumes operation.


Aung Min warns activists over demands to close copper mine

Democratic Voice of Burma

26 November 2012

President's Office Minister Aung Min called on activists to respect China and warned against shutting down the Latpadaung Copper Mine following demands from activists who called for the cancellation of the project.

"We have to be respectful of China," said Aung Min on Friday during negotiations with protestors at the mine in Sagaing division's Monywa district.

"When our country was in shambles after 1988 and we had nothing to eat, [food] was imported from China through the Muse [border trade route] allowing us to survive. And we have to show gratitude for that."

Aung Min's statements follow calls from protesters earlier in the day to abandon the mining project in order to restore locals' livelihoods and to avoid further environmental destruction in the area.

"We are making a union-level demand to bring the project to a complete stop," said All-Burma Federation of Student Unions (ABFSU) member Ye Yint Kyaw.

He said the protestors had chosen to call on President Thein Sein to act after local officials failed to help forge a solution.

"We made this decision because both the Regional Chief Minister and those from the Chinese company said they do not have authority to make a decision on the matter so we had to find any way possible to save the Latpadaung Hill and the Revered Lete Abbot's Ordination Hall," said Ye Yint Kyaw.

The Latpadaung Copper Mining project is a joint venture between China's Wangbao and military-owned Union of Myanmar Economic Holdings. 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.

According to Aung Min, if the project is cancelled then due compensation would have to paid to the mine's investors.

"This project has been going for a long time ago and if it's abandoned during our government's rule, there would be a lot of compensation and other things that would need to be paid according to the contract," said Aung Min.

In response to the ongoing protests at the mine, the Union Parliament passed a motion last Friday that would allow for the formation of an independent commission that will examine whether a planned expansion of the mining project would be allowed to go ahead.

"The commission aims to make assessments concerning environmental damage and threats to the locals' livelihood," said Lower House MP Ye Htun.

Locals claimed one of the hills in area has been destroyed during the early stages of the project and now another hill where the Lete Abbot's Ordination Hall is located is also under threat of being demolished by the project.

"Although we are addressing this as a religious cause, this is also a general cause and we are determined to fight for this," said a monk from Magwe division's Pakokku town who was participating in the protest.

Later this week, opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi is set to visit the mine and meet with protest leaders.

According to a report in Mizzima, Suu Kyi recently called for greater transparency in government projects before they are implemented.

However the opposition leader warned: "if we unilaterally break off ongoing projects, we stand to lose international trust."

-Aye Nai contributed to this report.


Gold mine protesters escorted home

The Irrawaddy

27 November 27 2012

Protesting gold miners from the Moehti Moemi area of Mandalay Division have been sent back to Yamaethin Township after a deal was struck with the authorities.

Around 70 workers started a protest march on Nov. 8 from Yamethin Township to the home of President Thein Sein in the capital Naypyidaw to plead for compensation after their gold mines were closed down.

Protesters had their path blocked by police and were allegedly attacked by around 100 officers and plain-clothed officials during a confrontation in which four miners were arrested on Nov. 23.

"We've got agreements that the company and authorities will meet and negotiate with us for compensation on Dec. 3 at Yamaethin Township if we return," a gold miner told The Irrawaddy. "Now we are being escorted on our way back."

Meanwhile, arrested worker leaders Ye Yint Htun, Naing Win, Saw Naung and Nay Aung Htet are now facing legal action for threatening the stability of the state and marching without permission. The accused are currently being detained at Taungoo Prison and will face trial on Friday, according to family members.

Tens of thousands of gold miners staged a protest earlier in June after the Myanmar National Prosperity Public Company (MNPPC) asked employees to stop working in the 6,000-acre Moehti Moemi area of Yamethin, which lies 78 km north of Naypyidaw.

Miners accused the MNPPC of reneging on a verbal agreement with around a thousand small mining companies and individual miners in December 2011 which allowed them to excavate gold for the duration of its five-year government contract.

The miners called off their protest after negotiations in mid-June as their demands-to be allowed to continue mining, receive compensation for loss of earnings and investment, gain access to mining machinery and be allowed to continue working on a profit-sharing basis as before-were all granted by the MNPPC.

The protest then arose once again after miners complained that compensation for was not paid to all those affected and the company was breaking the June agreement.

Link: http://www.irrawaddy.org/archives/19894


Police arrest four miners during march to Naypyidaw

Democratic Voice of Burma

23 November 2012

Four miners from Moehti Moemi gold mine in central Burma's Yemathin township, who have been marching to Naypyidaw to protest a government order that closed their mines, were attacked by police and arrested today near Myohla town.

Of the 70 estimated protestors participating in the march, Ye Yint Htun, Naing Win, Nay Zaw Htet and Saw Naung were arrested.

Employees from the Moehti Moemi gold mine have been staging protests throughout the summer after the Ministry of Mining ordered them to close down their mines.

The move followed a government decision that awarded a large tender to the Myanmar National Prosperity Public Company Limited (NPPCL), which effectively allows the company to operate in the areas previously occupied by smaller mining operations.

The miners from Mandalay division decided to march to Naypyidaw after a protest earlier this month in front of the NPPCL's headquarters in Rangoon failed to yield any results.

The protestors stayed in Myohla town for three days before continuing to march this morning when about 100 police officers along with 20 plain-clothed officials wielding sticks attacked them.

"We were marching peacefully but they came using force," said one protestor who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

"They beat up the four right before us and arrested them," said Thandar Aung, who was attending the protest. "They beat them up with police batons while they were handcuffed and dragged them off. There were about five or six people doing the beating."

The assault on the protestors this morning did not appear to deter the miners who continued to march to Naypyidaw where they plan to deliver an appeal to President Thein Sein.

Local police were unavailable for comment concerning the whereabouts of the arrested miners.

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