Burmese Protesters Kidnap Chinese Workers at Letpadaung Mine

Letpadaung, Wanbao, Myanmar, Burma, The Irrawaddy, protest, Chinese

Protestors against the Letpadaung copper mine face off with riot police in 2013. (Photo: Han Win Aung / Facebook)

MANDALAY — Three contractors for the controversial Letpadaung copper mine project have been kidnapped and held hostage by anti-mine protesters in northwest Burma.

The contractors, including two Chinese nationals and a Burmese national, were allegedly taken against their will by student activists and monks in Sagaing Division on Sunday morning, according to Wanbao, a Chinese company backing the mining project.

The Burmese contractor was later released but the two others were kept in the protesters’ custody.

The company sent a letter on Monday morning to the minister of Sagaing Division and opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, requesting urgent assistance.

“Our colleagues have been threatened with death if the police were to harm any of the villagers. The activists have demanded the halting of the Letpadaung project as a condition of the release of our colleagues,” Geng Yi, managing director of Myanmar Wanbao Mining Copper Ltd, said in the letter.

Suu Kyi was chairwoman for an investigation commission that last year recommended the continuation of operations at the mine following fierce public opposition.

On Monday evening, the protesters were reportedly bringing the two Chinese contractors to a 5 pm negotiation meeting with local and company authorities in New Zetaw village.

The kidnapping was a response to the arrest and detention of anti-mine protester Aung Soe following his involvement in unrelated protests against land-grabs in Mandalay Division.

In Sagaing Division, angry residents marched on Sunday morning to the police station in Sarlingyi Township where Aung Soe was initially detained. On their way, they seized a vehicle and kidnapped the three Wanbao employees.

According to the residents, the Wanbao contractors had been building a fence around land that was seized from the residents by mining authorities, although negotiations for compensation had not yet ended.

Following the kidnapping, the police raided a monastery in the same township late on Sunday night. In an ensuing clash, officers allegedly fired tear gas at residents, who responded by throwing bricks.

“We are only keeping them to draw the attention of authorities from the mining company, so they come to see us and talk about our future,” Myint, a resident from Hse Te village, told The Irrawaddy of the kidnapping.

“We have asked the mining authorities several times to negotiate with us, but every time we meet they fail to give a clear statement about our future. Now the authorities tried to face us brutally. Since we lost our land, we have no life.”

Protesters denied threatening or harming their hostages, saying the contractors had been taken to a safe location.

“We kept them nicely and fed them well. We didn’t touch them,” Aung Thein, a farmer in Hse Te village, told The Irrawaddy. He said that when the protesters were requesting the return of their land. “We did not take compensation because the time to cultivate is coming,” he added.

Ashin Alorka, an abbot at the monastery that was raided in Zedaw village, said nobody was harmed during the ensuing clash.

“But I was saddened because this is the second time since 2012 that my monastery has been brutally raided like this, as if it were the hiding place of bandits,” he told The Irrawaddy, adding that the Wanbao contractors had not been held there.

“We monks are trying to calm the situation down and negotiate between the villagers and the authorities, but the brutal reaction of the authorities has sparked anger among the villagers,” he said.

5 Responses to Burmese Protesters Kidnap Chinese Workers at Letpadaung Mine

  1. Please, don’t do it my fellow country men. It won’t work and you will be prosecuted by law.
    You need to protest peacefully. Kidnapping or taken hostage is committing crime. Don’t go to prison for nothing. It will invite Government to use force.
    It won’t be achieved. Please, release all hostages immediately and apologize to victims.

    I personally believe for to cancel whole Letpadaung copper mine project is too late. Peoples who were affected by Letpadaung copper mine project should be peacefully negotiating with Burmese Government, UMEHL and Wanbao Company.
    President U Thein Sein Government must stand up and resolve differences between farmers and Mining Company. UMEHL is fully responsible for negotiation with local farmers. So far UMEHL was receiving free shares in Mining project and do nothing.
    So far, Burmese Government does not stand up as Government should be and UMEHL is hiding its head under the old Uniform.
    I don’t think Burmese Government and UMEHL action is good to attract prospected foreign investors. UMEHL is only good for receiving free shares from foreign investor. Obtaining share without investment in business is called corruption. Beneficiaries of UMEHL were rewarding themselves with “License to corrupt” during the former dictator Than Shwe 19 years reigned.

    They should not target Chinese Company because this Letpadaung copper mine project was not initiated Myanmar Wanbao Mining Copper Ltd.

    I suggest the protesters should direct protect UMEHL and President U Thein Sein Government. Targeting on foreign own Company instead of local Company is not fair.

    The Mine was initiated by Union of Myanmar Economic Holdings (UMEHL) and Canada’s Ivanhoe Mines Ltd. The Mine was already developing by Ivanhoe Minies Ltd and its associate UMEHL. Responsible for acquiring Mining land is UMEHL job. So land grabbing job was done by UMEHL. That’s why UMEHL got free shares from Lepadaung Copper Mine project.
    If land owners wanted to protest for unfairness and compensation and then they should direct protest against UMEHL.

    The protesters must dialogue with both UMEHL and Myanmar Wanbao Company.
    It’s not looking good for international investors if Burmese protesters were only targeting on foreign own Company especially Chinese Company.

    Everything happened in Lepadaung Copper Mine is UMEHL and Burmese Government fault. Without Burmese Government approvals and UMEHL action, there will be nothing Chinese Company can do about land grabbing and destroying religious landmark.
    I believe protesters are afraid of confronting to Government and former Generals (UMEHL). That’s why they are targeting on weak target.

    It’s time for President U Thein Sein to show its strong leadership and its wisdom by sorting out problem peacefully.

  2. Ask fox than shwe to clear this issue as it is all created by fox, not DASSK who has no military power. Chinese government should press on Fox-than shwe, puppet-thien sein and child soldier-ming aung hlaing and they can solve it out within 24 hour with their military power. If not effective from fox, China can ask Wa army to come in to solve this issue. Fox wants to divert all ordinary Burmese attention from abolishing Nargic 2008 constitution by DASSK, Ming Ko naing and all ethnics by deliberately creation of this kidnap issue.

  3. Brave villagers. Chinese invasion must be stopped. Regime goes to bed with Chinese but we the people will defend our land. Kidnapping is so soft. Next time, the Chinese will go home without their heads.

    • Don’t worry we’re no longer interest in your country. We already map out where we’re going to invest around the world with our planned $1.25 trillion investment fund. Mostly will be in the Americas and Europe, they welcome us there. I know you’re waiting for their investments but don’t wait to because they’re as broke as you.

      BTW we do invested a few million dollar in your country in 2014.

      • Good Point! Dude~
        Just let these lazy stupid corwards rot in their disgusting shithole!
        The only thing myanmar male can do is lay down and cry…

        It’s really wired when I saw the consturction site were full of ladies in this country and the “gentlemen” just sit in the shade enjoy sweet tea…

        Now I wonder why don’t they send ladies to fight KIA? They will surely do better than “soldiers”!

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