MAC: Mines and Communities

Bangladesh-Phulbari update

Published by MAC on 2007-08-26

Bangladesh-Phulbari update

26th August 2007

A year ago last Sunday, three teenage boys were killed and scores of people severely wounded when the paramilitary Bangladesh Rifles opened fire upon a demonstration by local people which called for the withdrawal of UK-based Asia Energy plc and cancellation of the Phulbari open-pit coal project.

In the twelve months since, "Phulbari" has become a byword for denial of democracy and the threat of indiscriminate mineral extraction in one of the poorest nations on the planet. The "interim government", set up after a coup in January this year, has been hi-jacked by the military which, over past weeks, has further stepped-up further its repression against dissent (notably by students).

Although it hasn't dared return to Phulbari, Global Coal Management plc (aka Asia Energy) remains recalcitrant. Recently it took a group of Bangladeshi media to Germany to view the allegedly benign impacts of open-pit coal mining there. It was an exercise which, as some critics point out, was largely irrelevant, if not spurious.

Last week, we conjectured that opposition to this particular project (and, by extension, to other related foreign investment plays in Bangladesh) was no longer confined to a small group of "dissidents". []

This week, the Bangladesh Workers Party and the Bangladesh Movement for Rights of Indigenous People will be joining others - especially women's groups - which are holding remembrances of those murdered and others still suffering from the criminal firings on August 26 2007.

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