Activists protesting against the Letpadaung copper mine in Sagaing Division have condemned the sentencing of three detained demonstrators, accusing the judiciary of a lack of transparency and failing to provide the defendants with due process of law.
Sagaing locals and colleagues of the detained said the three men were sentenced without having a chance to hire a lawyer. Their family members were not informed of the trial, they also claimed.
“This is simply an abuse of human rights. They’ve been missing for about a month since they were arrested. The authorities failed to inform the family members,” said Min Min, a local.
Aung Soe, from Rangoon People’s Support Network, and the two farmers were detained after security forces moved in to stop farmers from plowing their confiscated fields in the villages of Hse Te and Moegyopyin on April 25.
“They even refuse to provide information concerning the detainees when the families went to inquire about where they were and what kind of trial they were facing. The authorities treated us poorly when we went to ask about the detainees as well.”
The district court of Shwebo on Saturday sentenced Aung Soe, who helped the protesting farmers, to 18 months in prison, while two other farmers from Hse Te who plowed on their confiscated lands were each penalized with six months in prison for gathering illegally.
“We were never informed that they were moved to Shwebo prison either. I think the authorities, somehow, are afraid of unrest, for we are continuously protesting for the release of these people and an end to mining in the area,” he said. “However, we believe this action by the authorities shows there’s still no transparency and there’s no justice in the judicial system.”
Protests have been staged periodically since early 2012, with farmers and other locals looking to win back their confiscated lands and halt mining in the area.
More than 7,000 acres of land from 26 villages were confiscated and many families were displaced due to the copper mining project, which is a joint venture between the Chinese-owned company Wanbao and Burma’s military-owned Union of Myanmar Economic Holdings Ltd (UMEHL). The mining project was launched in 2010.