Protesters Re-Open Road in Letpadaung

By Zarni Mann 28 February 2017

MANDALAY — Demonstrators from the Letpadaung copper mining region of Sagaing Division called off their protests and re-opened a road after receiving assurance from the Sagaing divisional chief minister on Saturday.

The protesters included farmers from nearby villages who said they had their land confiscated by mining operations, and proceeded to block the road connecting the copper mining area and the compound of the Chinese Wanbao Mining Co. starting on Feb. 22.

“The chief minister assured us that he would negotiate with the mining company regarding compensation, so we called off the protest and re-opened the road blocks,” said U Pho La Pyae, one of the farmers participating in the protest.

The farmers also said that the chief minister assured them he would instruct the mining company to follow the recommendations of the report from the Daw Aung San Suu Kyi-led investigation committee into the complaints.

“The chief minister said that the farmers’ problems of mining in Letpadaung would be brought up in Parliament. We trust in our chief minister and the government led by Mother Suu, and our long lost hopes have become bright again,” U Pho La Pyae said.

Local police reportedly brought charges against a number of the farmers for protesting without permission and blocking the road for around five days.

“We heard that 25 farmers, including Sayardaw U Sanda Thiri from Hse Tae village and I, have been sued under peaceful assembly acts, Article 19 and two other criminal acts for an ‘unlawful gathering’ and for blocking the road,” said Than Mya from Moe Gyo Pyin village. “However, we didn’t receive any information letter or notice from the police or the court yet.”

Locals said they are waiting for the results of discussions between the chief minister and the divisional parliament, however, they remain concerned that the mining company might not listen to government orders.

“Although the chief minister assured us that he would talk with the mining company, the police and local administration sued us, and we feel like the chief minister or Mother Suu’s government has less power than the police and the administration officers in this case,” said U Pho La Pyae.

“However, we trust in Mother Suu’s government that they will not abandon us and will take action against the mining company for failing to follow orders,” he added.