MAC: Mines and Communities

Burma - Thai Army Wants Answers Over Death Of Mine Owner

Published by MAC on 2007-03-07
Source: Bangkok Post ()

BURMA

Thai Army wants answers over death of mine owner

Chiang Mai: Bangkok Post

7th March 2007

The Third Army yesterday ordered its intelligence service to find out the story behind a landmine explosion in Burma which left the Thai owner of an antimony mine dead and seriously injured an employee. The regional army chief wanted to know how the slain businessman was able to run his mining operation for more than three years in Burma's Kayah state without the knowledge of Thai authorities, a Third Army source said.

The source said illegal businesses were rampant in the area. ''These illicit activities are backed by high-ranking officials in Mae Hong Son who allegedly take bribes from businesses, including mining and logging companies,'' the source said.

On Saturday, a pick-up truck carrying Pradit Hongto, 50, and his employee Somboon Hongnimit, ran over a landmine on a border road opposite Ban Nam Phiang Din in Mae Hong Son province. Pradit died on the spot and Mr Somboon was critically injured.

The explosion occurred near Hauy Ponglao, site of the Karenni National People's Liberation Front (KNPLF) base, a 10km drive from the village. The source said Thai authorities initially put forward three theories about the incident.

Firstly, it could have been the result of a conflict of interest between Pradit's company, TCL Mining, and another Thai firm which runs mining and teak logging operations in Burma.

Secondly, it might have something to do with a conflict within the KNPLF leadership over logging and mining in the area.

Thirdly, it was possible that Burmese forces were exploiting a conflict between the KNPLF and Thai businessmen.

It was speculated that they wanted to pressure Thai authorities to expel ethnic migrants from border refugee camps, which the Burmese junta believes are also sheltering KNPLF fighters.

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