MANDALAY — Three more people were arrested on Tuesday in Mandalay Region over opposition to a coal-powered cement factory currently under construction that locals want cancelled for fear it will damage the environment or leave them uncompensated for confiscated land.
U Thein Paing, Daw Mya Mya and Daw Aye, who is 70 years old, had been notified that they were being sued under a local road and traffic law and presented themselves at a police station in Patheingyi Township, at which point they were arrested and sent to the township court.
The three asked to be released on bail but were refused.
“The court said it is a non-bailable offense. It is not a problem for us. But Daw Aye is seriously ill and deserves bail, so we were saddened by the court’s decision,” said U Thein Paing.
U Thein Paing and Daw Mya Mya were both sent to Obo prison in Mandalay Township immediately after the court session. Daw Aye was sent to Patheingyi General Hospital to receive medical care under police supervision. Her lawyer said a second bail request had already been submitted and that a decision was expected on Thursday.
The trio reportedly refused to abandon their land to make way for the expansion of a local road leading to the cement factory in Aung Thabyay Village.
Locals say some of their land was already confiscated when the road was built in 2013.
“At the end of 2017, authorities from the road and transportation department said they would expend the road again. But this time we cannot give up our lands without compensation,” said Daw Mya Mya.
Locals said the department sent out notices telling residents with land along the road to remove the fences around their properties and that the three were sued when they refused.
“The road is already 18 feet wide. Now they plan to expand it to be 50 feet wide and we have to give up a lot of our land without any compensation. We disagree with the plan and we were being sued. This is too much,” said Daw Mya Mya.
Another Daw Mya Mya, a farmer from Thayatgone Village who refused an order to stop fencing off her land, was arrested on July 22 and is also being sued for the same offense.
The four could to sentenced to up to three years in prison if convicted.
Another four people are being sued under Article 19 of the Peaceful Assembly and Peaceful Procession Law for planning a protest against the cement factory.
U Thein Paing claimed that the residents of Aung Thabyay have been told that the entire village would have to be relocated once the factory, a project of the Chinese-owned Myint Investment Company, is finished.
“We don’t want to move from here. We want mother Suu to help,” he said, referring to State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.