Letpadaung Mine Protesters Scale New Heights

Buddhist monks lead copper mine protesters up to Shwe Myin Tin Mountain on Friday. (PHOTO: Aung Nay Myo / Facebook)

In defiance of a local government trespassing act and a police roadblock, some 1,000 miners, monks and members of the general public in Sagaing walked to the highest point of the Letpadaung mountain range on Friday to make merit at a Buddhist pagoda.

The march represented the latest in a series of protests against a copper mining project in the area.

“We want to create awareness that it is not only our farmlands, but also religious buildings such as monasteries, that have been seized and confiscated due to the mining project,” said a farmer who participated in Friday’s march.

Although police officers initially blocked the route to Shwe Myin Tin Mountain where A-Nu-Myi Kat Kyaw Pagoda is located, they relented after negotiating with the Buddhist monks who were leading the protest. Representatives from each of the 26 villages that are affected by the land seizures also participated.

“There are no more monasteries left in the area for us,” said the farmer. “We only have that pagoda [ A-Nu-Myi Kat Kyaw Pagoda] on the hill where the abbot lives. We all used to go there every year to make merit, pray and place gold leaf on the pagoda, and we wanted to do the same this year.”

The Letpadaung protesters said that on Friday evening they plan to light 26 fire balloons, representing the 26 affected villages, to promote their opposition to the mining project. An environment awareness concert featuring traditional Burmese songs will follow in Wat Hmae Village.

“We believe the president, the government and the persons responsible for this copper mine will take action soon,” said a farming community leader from Wat Hmae. “We will continue these protests and campaigns—no matter how long it takes—until we reach our destiny.”

In a recent interview with Washington-based Radio Free Asia, Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi said that the root of the problem with the Letpadaung mining project is a lack of transparency from the ruling government.

Letpadaung is situated in a watershed area nearby the confluence of two of Burma’s most important rivers, the Irrawaddy and the Chindwin, around 15 miles west of Monywa. The farmers of this area began airing their complaints and demands for adequate compensation and the return of farmland on July 2.

Tensions were raised in August as more villagers joined the farmers’ protests. Later it began to focus on the closure of copper mining in the area by highlighting the decimation of nearby Sabae and Kyay Sin mountains due to similar projects in the past as well as farmland polluted by waste products from the work site.
Civil society groups from as far afield as the former capital Rangoon have since become involved, actively publicizing the preservation of Letpadaung mountain range and conservation of the local ecosystem.

Copper mining in the area started in 1980 with joint ventures between former Burmese Ministry of Mining-1 and various investors, including Canada-based Ivanhoe Mines.

In 2011 the copper mining project is jointly run by the military-owned Union of Myanmar Economic Holdings Ltd. and China’s Wan Bao Company and more than 7,800 acres of land from 26 surrounding villages were confiscated.

3 Responses to Letpadaung Mine Protesters Scale New Heights

  1. You either denounce greed and so-called development to live as you are or you sell every thing – land, rivers, forests- and live like an animal in concrete buildings and work in factories. 

    This is the time to choose. You cannot have both ways.

    And the whole country must decide. Currently smatr people, Thein Sein and your Amay Suu have decided for you to sell out the country  to the international companies of all sorts.

     IMF money is loan you and your children will literally die to pay back for decades. To  build roads, which are NOT for you but for the traders, foreign traders and some usual Burmese.

  2. People Power vs UMEHL.  Opposition parties had better make up their mind whose side they are on. History waits for no man or Lady.

  3. The Burmese Freedom Fighter

    There has to be an answer to this newly arising tension between the farmers and copper mining company over its misconducts of practices that affect livelihood of 26 villages: a challenge that will unfold the leadership ability of current government and the stability of Burma in its reform process to democracy. This is the fact that local community in LetPadaung doesn’t benefit out of this mining project, but detrimental destruction of their farm lands, safety, and community life.   

    The leadership skill has to overrun the old practice of being bossy. A boss creates fear, a leader confidence. A boss fixes blame, a leader corrects mistakes. A boss knows all, a leader asks questions. A boss makes work drudgery, a leader makes it interesting. The government has to be a good leader, whose ears’ always rang by the voices of suffering people. After all, the causes of farmers in LetPadaung area are not that much less different than that of their government to safe the nature of Burma for its sustainability and preservation for Burma younger generation to come. 

    The history of Burma has shown that Burmese are very resilient to oppression and coercion, but cooperative when their voices are respected to reach sensible solution to whatever problems that comes out of long term mismanagement of successive governments. 

    Participatory approach will surely serve common interest of Burma. Given the fact that all the existing so called national development projects are done at the cost of ordinary people in a very fearful reckless bossy manner for a half century, it is well deserved to have conciliatory discussion about the best outcome of all arising issues. Do not let patient of the resilient Burmese run out for it will surely cause Burma for another 50 years. 

    The Burmese Freedom Fighter

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