Letpadaung Farmers Reject Compensation

Protesters stop trucks at the construction site. (Photo: Han Win Aung)

While hundreds of farmers have received compensation for land taken from them for the controversial Letpadaung copper mine, many others are refusing to take the money.

The government committee tasked with providing compensation to residents around the mine in northwest Burma said that 570 farmers had received a total of 17.8 million kyat (US $20,300) for more than 1,700 acres of land, according to a statement released on Wednesday.

But the committee has also received 177 complaints to reject the compensation, it said.

“We do not accept the compensation because we do not want to leave our land,” said Myint Aye, from Moegyopyin village, one of 26 villages on the Letpadaung mountain range in Monywe District, Sagaing Division.

More than 7,000 acres of farmland were confiscated in 2010 for the Letpadaung copper mining project, a joint venture between the Chinese Wanbao company and Burma’s military-owned Union of Myanmar Economics Holdings.

Protests against the project began last year, with activists citing environmental concerns such as the piling of mining waste on village farmland.

A police crackdown on peaceful protesters in late November left more than 100 people injured, mostly Buddhist monks.

A government team led by opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi was formed after the crackdown to investigate the mine and determine whether the project should continue. The team last month recommended that the project continue and farmers be compensated for their lost land.

An implementation committee was formed to distribute compensation for farmland seized in Salingyi Township of Monywa District.

Village officials last month invited residents with a loudspeaker announcement to visit the township administrative office for the money.

“But we didn’t go,” one resident told The Irrawaddy.

A monk from Hse Tae, one of four villages forced to relocate last year, said some farmers took the compensation because they believed they had no other option.

The monk added that about 150 households remain in the village and have refused the compensation.

“The [implementation] committee pays one million kyat for an acre of farmland, but some claim that this rate of compensation is too low to even think of taking it,” he said.

Among them is Myint Aye, whose 10 acres of land have been affected by the mining project.

“We are going to plant sesame and pigeon peas soon, so we’re protecting our farmland from being filled with waste from the Wanbao company,” said Myint Aye.

In a statement on Wednesday, the implementation committee said it would “continue the granting of compensation” and “act on suggestions” of the inquiry led by Aung San Suu Kyi.

The anti-copper mine protests have resumed daily since last week, when hundreds of protesters demonstrated and posted signs on their land reading, “This land is not for sale” and “End the copper mine project.”

The protesters have received permission to assemble.

“Now we’re being very careful about our security,” said Myint Aye. “So we made sure to get permission to protest before starting.

“Our land was confiscated, and the land could bring harm to our villagers.”

9 Responses to Letpadaung Farmers Reject Compensation

  1. Big diversionary tactics from the crucial land issues going on right now. Deployed by people with a record as long as your arm.

  2. “570 farmers had received a total of 17.8 million kyat (US $20,300) for more than 1,700 acres of land”
    Unbelievable exploitation and disrespect of fellow human beings by the greedy Chinese blood-suckers. I don’t know what Suu Kyi’s villa (her former prison) by the Inya Lake is worth, but I di the math for you: Each farmer gets less than $36 and each acre (full of copper) is worth less than $12 (not to mention all the poison that destroys the environment)
    Hey for that kind of money, China can buy all of Burma! No wonder the poor farmers are
    The Burmese should give the Muslims “a break” and also look at what the Chinese are doing to their country!

    • Sorry about the typos, but it’s clear what I meant.
      $20,300 for 1,700 acres is peanuts (I could even afford to pay that!) for all that precious land and the ancestral hills that the Chinese are allowed to destroy for their own benefit.

    • I can understand your frustration but you’re barking at the wrong tree here. The greedy Chinese blood-suckers are not the problem here as we paid the negotiated sum to your government and is up to your government to compensate the farmers adequately.

      You, especial you erroneously put all Myanmar’s (noted not Burma as you called)to the Chinese is a insult to everybody’s intelligent here. Frankly if it wasn’t for China, the sanctioned Myanmar would be where she’s today.

  3. The unshakable and determined efforts of the villagers should be commended.

    However, I am afraid it is too late. The damage has already been done. The environmental toxins are already in the water, air and the soil. The Letpadaung commission should concentrate on how to undo the damage not only for the sake of the villagers but also for the whole country. I am very worried about the fate of the children, pregnant women as well as the rest of the people living there. The villagers have no way of knowing what is afflicting them and reports may not be filed.

    Anyway, I pray for their health and general well being.

    • I agree with Khin Nwe Win. Yes, The damage has already been done. What should we do now? It needs independent expert opinion for all aspects ( compensation, environmental issues including mining practices, pros and cons of continuing or not continuing in the aspect of world most poorest country, Burma ). There are 117 complaints form refusing to accept the compensation. Explore their needs and let them to visit or know (documentary film) the rich countries like Australia, some parts of Mongolia and China from the mining business. Does the mining business benefit those local villagers in future? All should be addressed to those villagers to let them to regain more understanding for the sake of the country, not for their own benefits themselves.

    • Our former Lady Daw Suu Kyi took care of investigation for USDP, not for the victims of cooper mine. If we can no longer trust Daw Suu Kyi, it means Burma has no good man nor woman alive today.

  4. George Than Setkyar Heine

    The anti-copper mine protests have resumed daily since last week, when hundreds of protesters demonstrated and posted signs on their land reading, “This land is not for sale” and “End the copper mine project.”
    BRAVO, Myint Aye and the VILLAGERS who REFUSED to GIVE UP their LANDS and LIVELIHOODS for a PITTANCE as well since day one until today.
    10 Million Kyats – worthless scraps of printed paper only – for an ACRE of LAND is an INSULT on the PEOPLE and the LAND of BURMA no less.
    Besides the LAND – Wan Bao and UMEHL military owned company have seized – is WORTH MORE THAN ITS WEIGHT in GOLD no less of course.
    Myint Aye and his people CAN MAKE THEIR LIVELIHOOD – plant sesame and pigeon peas amongst many crops – on the LAND until the END of TIME like they DID since DAY ONE until their LAND was SEIZED by the Chinese and military owned joint venture in 2010.
    “The implementation committee said it would “continue the granting of compensation” and “act on suggestions” of the inquiry led by Aung San Suu Kyi.
    So, Suu Kyi has SOLD the FARMERS and their LAND to the Chinese communists and Burmese cutthroats after all man!
    Hey, MIN KO NAING, you’d BETTER BUCK UP and FORM a POLITICAL PARTY and FAST as well man, please!
    I would CERTAINLY VOTE YOU IN like ALL the PEOPLE in BURMA would as well trust me.
    Well, WHETHER Thein Sein and his LOT – the communists in Beijing – PLAY the GAME FAIR and SQUARE and HAND OVER POWER or NOT IS GOING TO BE HISTORY.
    If NOT then WE WILL HAVE TO START from SCRATCH/SQUARE ONE just FOR FUN, no choice man.

  5. As a country trying to catch up for all the years of economic doom, one might argue that we need to do some trade offs with our country’s resources. I am sure this is one of the reasons given by the Letpadaung commission.

    However, I do not see any transparency as to where the money is going. Is it going to line the pockets of the Chinese and their Burmese peers? If so, it is going to be a triple whammy for the villagers and the whole country. One – losing the land, two – facing all the major health hazards, three – getting peanuts for their land which is worth many times over.

    They should be compensated a percentage of what would be coming in since this valuable land belongs to them. It does not belong to the Chinese nor the Burmese government.The fact that they are offered peanuts is not democratic even though they are using the word democracy all along.

    Is our country really heading towards democracy or is it just another fallacy?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

 characters available. Comments with external links in the body text will be deleted by moderators.